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The Economic Benefits of Women Empowerment

We often hear that companies and individuals want to empower women because it’s the right thing to do. But that’s not the only reason to empower women.

Empowered women positively benefit the economy when they’re given a seat at the table.

In this blog, we explore what happens when women have a seat at the table and the inequities weighing them down are lifted. Particularly:

  • The economic benefits of empowered women
  • Women’s participation in Peace Processes
  • More broadly within the global community, how lifting the burdens of inequity can peace and stability

Let’s dive in!

The economic benefits of empowered women

Better economies, healthier citizens and enhanced wellbeing.

Stronger economies and higher incomes lead to reduced poverty, with all of its attendant ills, hunger, disease, and weak health. Growing prosperity results in increased expenditure on social services, education, healthcare, and development for everyone to enjoy.

  • An increase in the share of women legislators is also positively correlated with investment in education and health.
  • A study of women’s personal empowerment at the household level—including indicators such as property and inheritance rights, rights in marriage, divorce, and custody, and the level of violence against women in the home—found that less empowerment in the household correlates with less stability nationwide (measured by political instability, lack of freedoms, autocracy, corruption, and internal conflict).
  • Countries are more prosperous and stable as the gender gap closes. Countries that educate women have better economies, healthier citizens, and less violence than those that don’t.

When gender equality starts with education, families get the opportunity to improve their lives.

The longer girls stay in school, the fewer child marriages, meaning family planning and maternal / child health improve.

It is much harder to leave dangerous relationships and situations without an education to fall back on.

Better education leads to more and better opportunities. Each additional year of girls’ education increases family income, reducing family poverty, improving child health, and lowering infant mortality by 5-10%.

Greater food security.

  • Females globally have a 27% higher risk than men of facing severe food insecurity. 60% of all undernourished people are women and girls.
  • The tradition of women eating last continues to be widely followed, especially in rural areas, and it often leaves women hungry /
  • suffering from malnutrition, while the males of the family are food secure.

The wellbeing of children is often linked to that of mothers. With more income and financial independence, women can increase household spending on children’s nutrition, health, and education.

Fewer societal problems as gender-related violence is reduced

A healthy economy is a machine powered by well-adjusted, well-educated, synergistic people.

Femicide, human trafficking, abused women and children, rape-culture, honour killings, FGM, and female foeticide / infanticide all result from gender inequality.

Unequal societies are less cohesive, with higher rates of anti-social behaviour and violence. Countries with greater gender equality are more connected.

Reduced racial discrimination

Women in marginalized racial groups face significantly more discrimination, receiving lower pay, fewer job opportunities and worse healthcare.  When gender equality is intersectional, this reduces racial discrimination.

When women go into a sector of the economy, including politics, it opens the doors for other minorities to follow. 

Historically, the success of women and the success of minorities BIPOC has been intertwined – we are both oppressed, with the degree being different, but a win for one is a win for the other.

Greater peace: Better government, improved decision-making, enhanced social / political stability, and conflict reduction and resolution

  • IMPROVED DECISION-MAKING: Multiple studies found that women in government are more likely to propose legislation which improves the lives of families and is more reflective of the collective interest.
  • Female lawmakers are more likely to advocate for policies that support education and health [PDF]. Parliaments with a higher share of women lawmakers are also more likely to pass and implement legislation that advances gender equality, including laws on domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment. 
  • Increasing the number of women in the parliament, curbs corruption, improves policy outcomes, promotes bipartisanship, equality, and stability, and the inclusiveness of minority groups in public spheres.
  • When women make up a critical mass of legislatures – around 25% to 30% – they are more likely to challenge established conventions and policy agendas.
  • According to a survey of sixty-five countries, women’s presence in politics restores trust in government and increases the amount of attention paid by political bodies to social welfare, legal protection, and the transparency of government and business. 
  • Women pass more legislation than their male counterparts.
  • ENHANCED SOCIAL/POLITICAL STABILITY: Women are more likely to work across lines, leading to cooperation between parties/groups and greater chance of success for legislative proposals.
  • CONFLICT REDUCTION AND RESOLUTION: In peace efforts, women’s contributions to conflict prevention and resolution reduce conflict and improve stability. Women’s inclusion at leadership tables promotes stability. One study found that when women’s parliamentary representation increases by 5%, a country is almost five times less likely to respond to an international crisis with violence. Within countries, women’s parliamentary representation is associated with a decreased risk of civil war and lower levels of state-perpetrated human rights abuses, such as disappearances, killings, political imprisonment, and torture.
  • MORE COLLABORATIVE / INCLUSIVE: Women take a collaborative approach to peacemaking, organizing across cultural and sectarian divides. This approach – which incorporates the concerns of diverse demographics (e.g., religious, ethnic, and cultural groups) affected by a conflict and with an interest in its resolution – increases the prospects of long-term stability and reduces the likelihood of state failure, conflict onset, and poverty.
    • Once there is a conflict, when women are at the negotiating table, the negotiated peace is more durable and better implemented, meaning it lasts longer – 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. In addition, parties were significantly more likely to agree to talks and subsequently reach an agreement when women’s groups exercised strong influence on the negotiation process, as compared to when they had little or no influence. Including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64% less likely to fail.
    • HONEST BROKERS: Including women at the peace table increases the likelihood of reaching an agreement because women are often viewed as honest brokers by negotiating parties. Because women often operate outside existing power structures, and generally do not control fighting forces, they are more widely perceived to be politically impartial mediators in peace negotiations, compared to men.
    • STAGE MASS ACTION: Women often advance peacemaking by employing visible and high-profile tactics to pressure parties to begin or recommit to peace negotiations, as well as to sign accords. Historically, women’s groups have successfully staged mass actions and mobilized public opinion campaigns in many countries to encourage progress in peace talks. In recent times, women’s groups have organized more mass action campaigns in support of peace deals than any other social group.
    • ACCESS TO CRITICAL INFORMATION: Because women tend to have different social roles and responsibilities than men do, they have access to information and community networks that can inform negotiating positions and areas of agreement.
    • BROADER AGENDA: Women are more likely to raise issues in negotiations that help societies reconcile and recover. They raise issues in conflict resolution processes beyond military action, power-sharing arrangements, and territorial gains, arguing for political and legal reforms, social and economic recovery priorities, and transitional justice concerns that can make agreements more durable.
    • ENHANCE POST-CONFLICT RECOVERY: Including women in post-conflict recovery and rebuilding processes improves stability. Groups charged with delivering on a peace agreement are more effective when women participate. Women are also more likely to direct post-conflict resources to the reconstruction of public institutions and provision of services critical to long-term stability, including schools, healthcare services, clean drinking water, and judicial systems.
    • When at least 35% of a country’s legislature are women, the risk of conflict relapse is close to zero. When women are unrepresented in parliaments, however, the risk of relapse increases over time.
    • GREATER PEACE: Gender equality is a better indicator of a country’s likelihood to deploy military force than its GDP. As gender equality improves, a country’s peace improves. In turn, this is important for gender equality because war disproportionately affects women.
    • Higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both between and within states. States with higher levels of political, social, and economic gender equality are less likely to use military force to settle disputes.
    • According to one study analyzing data from 1954 to 1994, there is a statistically significant relationship between the percentage of female leaders and the level of violence in a crisis.
    • Individuals, both men and women, who do not support gender equality are more likely to express hostility towards other countries and to minorities within their own country, according to a study of five countries around the Pacific—China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
    • States that are characterized by ethnic and gender inequality—as well as human rights abuse—are more likely to become involved in militarized and violent interstate disputes, rely on force in an international dispute, and be the aggressors during international disputes.
    • Higher levels of women’s political participation are associated with a lower risk of civil war and a reduced likelihood of state-perpetrated political violence—fewer killings, forced disappearances, torture, and political imprisonments.
    • The most rapid post-conflict reductions in poverty were observed in areas where women reported higher levels of empowerment, according to one study of conflict-affected communities.
    • Inequality in family law—for example, policies that disadvantage women regarding age and consent of marriage, the criminalization of marital rape, and inheritance law and practices—is a significant predictor of state instability and fragility, according to a quantitative analysis of 171 countries.
    • Women in police forces are less likely than their male counterparts to use excessive force and far more likely to de-escalate tensions and build trust with the communities they serve, thereby advancing stability and the rule of law.
    • Surveys confirm that women’s participation in the security sector is associated with fewer misconduct complaints and improved citizen perceptions of force integrity.

Statistical Research on Women’s Participation in Peace Processes

(SOURCE: The Council on Foreign Relations at https://www.cfr.org/womens-participation-in-peace-processes/why-it-matters#collapse-18768)

  • Peace agreements are more durable and better implemented when women participate in peace processes.
    • One study analyzed 130 peace agreements signed since 1990 and found a statistically significant relationship between peace agreements signed by women and the durability of peace. The study also found that linkages between women signatories and women-led civil society groups led to more provisions in final agreements that were focused on political reform, and higher implementation rates of those provisions, which increased the likelihood of durable peace. Source: Krause, Krause, and Branfors
    • A qualitative review of forty peace and constitution-drafting negotiations since 1990 found that parties were significantly more likely to agree to talks and subsequently reach an agreement when women’s groups exercised strong influence on the negotiation process, as compared to when they had little or no influence. Source: Paffenholz et al.
  • Women have a comparative advantage in interactions with community members, which amplifies situational awareness and helps military commanders fulfill their mandates, including the protection of civilians. Source: UN Women (January 2015)
  • Surveys confirm that women’s participation in the security sector is associated with fewer misconduct complaints and improved citizen perceptions of force integrity.
  • A visible presence of female peacekeepers has been shown to empower women and girls in host communities and can raise women’s participation rates in local police and military forces.
    • In Liberia, observers attributed an increase in women’s participation in the national security sector—from 6 percent to 17 percent over nine years—to the example set by the all-female police units deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping mission. Source: Pruitt

Gender balance in peacekeeping reduces sexual violence.

Greater gender balance in peacekeeping forces reduces the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. Estimates suggest that increasing the proportion of women in the military from 0 to 5 percent reduces abuse allegations by more than half. Source: Karim and Beardsley

Female officers are better able to respond to concerns about women’s physical safety.

Data from thirty-nine countries demonstrates that women are more likely to report instances of gender-based violence to female officers—a finding anecdotally supported for police, military, and peacekeeping personnel. Source: Miller and Segal in UN Women (2011)

  • Higher levels of women’s political participation are associated with a lower risk of civil war and a reduced likelihood of state-perpetrated political violence—fewer killings, forced disappearances, torture, and political imprisonments. Source: Melander (November 2005); Melander (March 2005)
  • A quantitative analysis found that the longer a country has had female suffrage before the outbreak of an international dispute, the higher the likelihood that it will resolve the dispute without using military force. Source: Caprioli (2000)
  • According to a survey of sixty-five countries, women’s presence in politics restores trust in government and increases the amount of attention paid by political bodies to social welfare, legal protection, and the transparency of government and business. Source: Hudson et al; Inter-Parliamentary Union
  • Commissions charged with delivering on specific aspects of a peace agreement—such as monitoring disarmament, establishing a truth and reconciliation process, or drafting a constitution—were more effective when women participated. Source: Paffenholz et al.
  • Women’s inclusion in efforts to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate ex-combatants eases tensions, opens dialogue, and improves protections for child soldiers.
    • Among former combatants in Sierra Leone, 55 percent identified women in the community as central figures in aiding reintegration, compared to 32 percent citing international aid workers and 20 percent citing community leaders. Source: Mazurana and Carlson; DCAF (2011)
  • Large gaps in female and male literacy rates and an excess of young men are associated with both more conflict incidents and higher conflict-related fatalities, according to one study of eighty-five districts in Northeast India. Source: Forsberg and Olsson
  • Inequality in family law—for example, policies that disadvantage women regarding age and consent of marriage, the criminalization of marital rape, and inheritance law and practices—is a significant predictor of state instability and fragility, according to a quantitative analysis of 171 countries. Source: Bowen, Hudson, and Lynne
  • A study of women’s personal empowerment at the household level—including indicators such as property and inheritance rights, rights in marriage, divorce, and custody, and the level of violence against women in the home—found that less empowerment in the household correlates with less stability nationwide (measured by political instability, lack of freedoms, autocracy, corruption, and internal conflict). Source: Hudson
  • Rising bride prices are associated with increased violence and terrorism.
    • Research found that bride prices are subject to destabilizing inflation, putting marriage out of reach for many young men. This incentivizes violence to obtain the necessary funds to marry. Source: Hudson and Matfess
  • Men who support values of “honor culture” (male societal privilege and control over female sexuality) are more likely to have participated in political violence during protests, according to a study in Thailand. Source: Bjarnegård, Brounéus, and Melander
  • Wartime rape also fuels displacement.
    • A 2013 International Rescue Committee study of displaced persons who fled Syria for neighboring Jordan and Lebanon found that the majority identified the danger of rape as a primary reason for leaving cities under siege. Threats of abduction spurred the 2014 exodus of two hundred thousand members of the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. Source: International Rescue Committee; Human Rights Watch

Female political inclusion is a social, economic, and political good in itself: Including women in the political process engenders significant social, political and economic benefits.