Women’s History Month is an opportune time to reflect on how far women have come in the last century. However, it’s also important to remember how much still needs to be done.

The gap in gender equality in the world — where women only have 64% of the legal rights men do — is more than concerning. It’s also hurting the global economy. What areas of focus can help change this imbalance?

Access to More Jobs and Sectors

According to the U.N., 60% of employed women around the world work in the “informal” economy. These positions aren’t regulated, aren’t taxed, and aren’t included in the national GDP. Common jobs in the informal economy include day workers, domestic workers, street vendors, street performers, agricultural workers, and other unofficial positions.

The informal economy is hampered by nature. Many such businesses insist on cash-only transactions and don’t have ready access to financial services. Job security in most informal positions is shaky at best.

The World Bank says closing the gender gap, instituting equal pay, and bringing more women into “official” employment could boost the global GNP by 20%.

Use of Resources

Women who want to launch businesses face another gender gap: access to crucial business resources, especially financing. In all but a few countries, women have fewer opportunities for business loans. Many have resigned themselves to self-financing, which adds another layer of stress to female entrepreneurship.

Women also have less access to technology, natural resources, land, and other materials needed to run a business. When women finally get equal rights and close the pay gap, they can invest in themselves more freely. Correcting the inequality would also reduce gender-based violence and elevate women’s social and political power.

Safety and Security

The ever-present specter of violence against women is still a concern, especially in poorer countries. The U.N. reports that the worldwide cost of violence against women amounts to around 2% of the global GDP, around $1.5 trillion. Especially in lower-income countries, the threat of gender-based violence drives many women to unpaid care work, hurting the cause of income equality.

More social protections for women can level out the playing field economically, inaddition to stemming mortality rates among women. They can increase the workforce, give more opportunities for self-investment and education, improve social stability, and make businesses more competitive. That’s on top of the most important goal — stopping gender-based violence.

Reconciling Care Services

Women vastly outnumber men working in domestic and unpaid care — by a 3:1 ratio. This contributes to income inequality, holding women back from education, rest, and certain services.

One possible solution is moving toward a transformed care system, basically a holistic recentering of healthcare services. Taking this approach worldwide could add 300 million jobs by 2035.

The Struggle Hasn’t Stopped — and Neither Should Women

Women’s financial empowerment varies from region to region and culture to culture. Likely, the disparity between women and men won’t be completely eradicated in the near future.

However, when women can reclaim agency and gain equal status, the entire economy can improve dramatically. It’s a global issue for everyone. Although women have more choices in most regions, there’s still a lot of work to do to bring the workforce closer to harmony and profitability.

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