A growing body of evidence (http://noceilings.org/report/report.pdf ) demonstrates that gender equality is not only important to women and girls—it is critical to boys, men, communities, economies, and societies. When women and girls are healthy and educated, their children and families prosper. Research shows that investing in women and girls has multiplier effects:
1. Even one extra year of schooling beyond the average can increase women’s wages by about 10 percent, and a World Bank study suggests that raising the share of women with secondary education is linked to increases in economic growth.
2. Educating women causes a ripple effect, leading to increased educational attainment across generations among both girls and boys.
3. Women with more education have a lower chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth and have healthier children; half of the reductions in child mortality between 1970 and 2009 can be attributed to increased educational attainment in women of reproductive age.
4. Women’s access to quality health information and services, particularly family planning, is essential to broader economic and health development goals.
The benefits of expanding women’s economic opportunities are equally clear. When women participate in the economy, poverty decreases and gross domestic product (GDP) grows.
5. It is estimated that closing the gap in women’s labor force participation across countries will lead to average GDP gains of 12 percent by 2030, including about 10 percent in the United States, almost 20 percent in Japan and Korea, and more than 22 percent in Italy.
6. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts that if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, total agricultural output would rise, and the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.
There are still major gaps in achievement for women and girls.
7. Security is tenuous for women and girls, even in their own homes.
8. Critical barriers—including legal restrictions and limited access to resources—undermine women’s economic opportunities. And women’s voices are still underrepresented in leadership positions—from legislatures to boardrooms, from peace negotiations to the media. Even in those areas where we have seen progress, too many obstacles limit the full participation of women and girls.
9. Many countries still lack laws safeguarding women’s rights and even where laws are strong, implementation and enforcement often lag. Social norms, an equally important influence on gender equality, are hard to change.
10. And recent gains for women and girls have not been shared by all. Geography, income, age, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and cultural norms, among other factors, remain powerful determinants of a woman’s chance at equal rights and opportunities.