The Business of Empowering Women

Published: December 2009

The goal of this business case is to inform private sector leaders about the potential impact of women's economic empowerment in developing countries and emerging markets, increase their understanding of some of the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing these women, and ultimately inspire them to action.

Key Findings

  • The vast majority -- 83 percent -- of the nearly 2,300 senior private sector executives who responded to our McKinsey Quarterly survey in May 2009 indicated that growth in developing countries and emerging markets is either "extremely" or "somewhat" important to their companies' success over the next 10 years.
  • Of our survey respondents whose companies are currently engaged in issues they believe to be relevant to economic growth in developing and emerging economies, only 19 percent report that their companies are doing anything specifically focused on women, either directly or indirectly.
  • When asked why they haven't focused on women, more than half of our respondents reported that their organizations simply had not considered making women a distinct strategic or philanthropic priority.
  • Those who do invest in women are either benefiting considerably or expect they soon will. Of our survey respondents, 34 percent reported increased profits and 38 percent indicated the expectation that their profits will increase as a result of their organizations' efforts to empower women in developing countries and emerging markets.
  • Skilled women who hold jobs and enjoy meaningful status in their communities make themselves and their societies healthier and more productive. They can also help private sector organizations fulfill their aspirations for growth and profitability.
  • Gender gaps in education and employment inhibit economic growth.
  • When the average education level of a country's adult female population increases by one year, the share of women in the workforce increases by nearly 1 percent.
  • Every paycheck to a woman is also an investment in the human capital of the next generation.
  • Economically empowered women can help private sector organizations achieve their own aspirations.
  • The more skilled women there are, the more quality employees a company has to choose from, and the more entrepreneurs there are to participate in a company's value or supply chain.
  • Implementing good corporate policies on women's employment and advancement can help enhance a company's reputation and brand.
  • 59 percent of our survey respondents reported an enhanced reputation and stronger brand as one of the most important ways that engagement in women's empowerment in developing countries and emerging markets has benefited or will benefit their companies and increase their profitability.

Populations Women

Complementary Outcomes Education And Literacy, Gender-based Violence, Sexual And Reproductive Health, Women's Leadership, Women's Rights

Industries Business, Finance

Publishers McKinsey & Company