Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, an internationally-celebrated day dedicated to recognizing the social, political, economic, and cultural contributions women have made globally and highlighting the inequalities that remain.
A national women's day in the United States was first marked in 1909 in New York City to commemorate a strike by the International Lady Garment Workers, who were protesting unfair working conditions, and International Women's Day was marked for the first time two years later, with over one million women and men attending rallies to call for the right to work, to vocational training, and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Over 100 years later, this year's International Women’s Day comes on the heels of an unprecedented international movement for women’s rights and equity in the workplace. This has taken the form of marches across the world and the global #MeToo campaign drawing attention to issues of women’s economic inclusion, workplace discrimination, and equal pay.
Learn more about women’s economic participation around the globe through these six recent publications from CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy program.
Rachel Vogelstein, Douglas Dillon senior fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy program, argues in a recent article in Foreign Affairs that eliminating legal and cultural barriers to women’s economic participation is a strategic imperative. Vogelstein reflects on the economic considerations that led Saudi Arabian leaders to rescind the female driving ban, postulating that given the growth potential posed by women’s economic inclusion, “even culturally conservative countries such as the Gulf kingdom have begun to recognize that they cannot get ahead if they leave half of their human capital behind.” The piece appeared in the January/February 2018 print issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.
In a 2017 CFR Discussion Paper, Rachel Vogelstein and CFR Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon argue that the connection between women’s economic participation and prosperity is undeniable. Yet despite the growing body of evidence that proves that inclusive economies boost GDP gains, mitigate demographic challenges, and alleviate poverty, national and international economic leaders continue to make and measure policy in ways that undervalue women’s work and fail to address the critical barriers that limit women’s economic contributions.
In an op-ed in Newsweek, CFR Senior Fellow Catherine Powell examines the global reach of the viral #MeToo campaign. Social media analytics illustrate that the hashtag spread rapidly across the world and was picked up by over one million users within two days, with dozens of nations creating spin-off hashtags. In many countries, “the digital campaign had real-world results,” writes Powell.
To preview top policy concerns on the horizon for 2018, ten Council on Foreign Relations experts shared trends to watch. The Women and Foreign Policy program’s pick for data worth tracking: the global decline of women in the workforce. Although women’s economic participation is critical to economic growth, potentially adding up to $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025, their labor force participation has dropped from 52 to 49 percent globally since 1990. This stagnation is explained, in part, by persistent legal barriers that undermine women’s ability to work.
In an op-ed in The Hill, Senior Fellow Jamille Bigio examines the financial losses fueled by women’s inability to join the labor force in economies across the Middle East. With only 21 percent of women employed (compared to 75 percent of men), the region has the lowest rate of women’s participation in the labor force worldwide. Bigio argues that this imbalance is caused by restrictive policies, such as those that limit women’s ability to work outside the home without a husband’s written permission and impose a cap women’s working hours.
In an op-ed in Fortune, Jody Heymann, dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and founding director of WORLD Policy Analysis Center, and Rachel Vogelstein analyze how workplace discrimination obstructs economic growth—and yet is perfectly legal in 68 countries. The authors highlight the findings of a groundbreaking new study from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA that finds that 424 million working-age women live in countries with no legal protections against sexual harassment at work.