CFR Master Class Series With Rachel Vogelstein

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations; @rvogelstein


Vice President, Deputy Director of Studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; @shannonkoneil

Rachel Vogelstein discusses gender equality in U.S. foreign policy, including a look at the relationship between women's workplace participation and economic growth.  

The CFR Master Class Series is a weekly 45-minute session hosted by Vice President and Deputy Director for Studies Shannon O’Neil in which a CFR fellow will take a step back from the news and discuss the fundamentals essential to understanding a given country, region of the world, or issue pertaining to U.S. foreign policy or international relations.

O’NEIL: OK. Thank you, Teagan, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to another of our Master Class Series. This is where we go beyond the headlines and look at a particular foreign policy issue in much greater detail with one of our senior fellows here at CFR.

So today’s topic is going to be gender and gender equality in foreign policy. And we have—with us to discuss this we have Rachel Vogelstein. Many of you know her. She is the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations. She’s also the director of our Women and Foreign Policy Program. Now, what some of you may not know is that she has been thinking about these issues and working on these issues for many years from many different directions. So she is a lawyer by training. She specialized in gender-equality issues and she now teaches, actually, at Georgetown Law School, these sorts of things. She has done a stint in government. She’s worked in the State Department for the advancement of women in foreign policy. She has also been in the nonprofit sector. She worked at the Clinton Foundation and other cases advancing these issues. And she is on several boards, where she is—shares her expertise, just as she’s going to share her expertise with us today.

So—(laughs)—I’m going to turn it over to Rachel to talk for about eight or ten minutes to set the stage, to lay out some big issues for us, and then we will begin the broader discussion and invite all of you in. So, Rachel, I hand it over to you.

VOGELSTEIN: Shannon, thank you so much for that kind introduction. It’s wonderful to be with all of you for this CFR Master Class on women’s workplace participation and economic growth, a topic that has become all the more urgent as nations confront not only our current global health crisis but our current global economic crisis.

So today I propose to answer three fundamental questions on this topic of women’s economic participation. First, what is the status of women in the economy in the modern era? Second, what is the relationship between women’s work and economic growth? And third, what can the U.S. foreign policy apparatus actually do to advance women’s economic participation around the world?

So let’s begin by exploring the status of women in the economy. And a data-driven review of the past twenty-five years shows that the overall status of women and girls has improved considerably, but despite the gains that we’ve seen women’s participation in the workplace has remained largely stagnant. So I’ll date this review back twenty-five years purposefully to capture the progress following the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where, famously, women declared with one voice that women’s rights are human rights; but also, importantly, where 189 nations adopted an ambitious platform for action calling for the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, social, and—importantly—economic life.

And since that time we’ve seen tremendous headway made in advancing the status of women in a few areas. I would point to legal frameworks and institutions. We’ve seen a record number of countries, for example, put laws prohibiting violence against women on the books, going from kind of three in 1995 to over a hundred today. Multilateral institutions have elevated the rights and participation of women. Think in particular of the U.N. Security Council, which has passed several resolutions relating to the participation of women in peace processes—recognizing that when women participate, peace agreements are more likely to be forged and more likely to last at least fifteen years.

And we’ve also seen concrete progress in a few sectors, and I would point to health and education in particular. In the area of women’s health, the rate of maternal mortality, which previously stood at half a million women every year, over this time period of two-and-a-half decades essentially has been cut in half. And with respect to education, in just twenty years’ time we saw the gender gap in primary schooling virtually closed on a global level. So that means that today there’s an entire generation of girls around the world who have an opportunity to go to primary schools that their mothers and grandmothers may not have enjoyed.

So while there’s certainly more work to do in all of the areas I just referenced, these gains show us that we have and we can make significant progress on issues that are too often seen as intractable. But these gains have not translated into progress for women in the workplace. So two-and-a-half decades after the Beijing conference, we see that the highest echelon of the economic sphere remain largely male. And despite the gains that we’ve seen in girls’ education, women’s labor-force participation has actually stagnated over this time period, over these three decades, dropping from 57 percent to 55 percent globally despite the strong evidence we have that women’s economic participation benefits not only families and communities, but entire economies. And in that same period, the gap between men’s and women’s labor-force participation has remained virtually unchanged. And of course, we know that there’s a gender wage gap in every country in the world for which we have reported data, including here in the United States for those of you who are calling in from there.

So what explains this stagnation? There are three kinds of barriers at play that I’d like to highlight.

The first: legal barriers to women’s economic participation. The legal playing field remains rigged against women in the workplace virtually everywhere. So at CFR we’ve actually created an interactive report called the Women’s Workplace Equality Index, which uses data from the World Bank to rank countries based on how level the legal playing field is for women in 189 countries. And we find that most countries still have laws on the books that make it harder for women to work than men. In fact, there are 104 countries that actually restrict the kinds of jobs that women can hold. That’s in both developing and developed nations alike.

So in Russia, for example, women can’t seek employment in 456 specific occupations, from woodworking to driving a subway. Argentina prohibits women from entering so-called dangerous careers such as mining, manufacturing flammable materials, even distilling alcohol. French law actually prevents women from holding jobs that require carrying twenty-five kilograms or more.

And there are other legal limits that restrict women’s ability to participate and compete in the economy. So there are seventy-five countries that restrict women’s property rights. Fifty-nine countries have no legal protection whatsoever against sexual harassment in the workplace. And eighteen countries still require women to have their husband’s permission to work outside the home. So there’s a constellation of legal barriers that contribute to the stagnation in women’s workplace participation.

There are also structural barriers to women’s economic participation, and I’ll highlight a few.

Gaps in secondary education. So while I talked about the improvement in schooling at the primary level, where we’ve reached parity on a global level, there are only a quarter of nations that have actually reached gender parity in upper secondary education. So those educational gaps that remain undermine women’s economic potential and also reduce broader economic growth. There’s one estimate that suggests that the cost of this gap is nearly one hundred billion per year in global GDP.

We also see that women’s overrepresentation in the informal sector and in low-wage work contributes to this stagnation. So women’s participation in the informal economy is particularly high in developing nations, with 86 percent of employed women located in the informal sector. And of course, informal-sector workers enjoy few of the benefits or protections that are offered in the formal economy, and have lower wages as well.

And then women’s burden of unpaid labor, the disproportionate burden that they experience—which includes domestic work; care for children, the sick, and the elderly—there are estimates that suggest that women perform 75 percent of the world’s unpaid work. And that not only effectively subsidizes the global economy, but it also reduces women’s ability to earn in the formal marketplace.

So there are legal barriers to women’s workplace participation, there are structural barriers, and then of course there are cultural barriers to women’s full participation in the workplace. And I’ll just name a few.

Gender gaps in opportunity actually affect time use from a very early age. So we see girls between the ages of five and nine spend an estimated forty million more hours a day on household chores than boys. Girls between ages ten and fourteen spend 120 million more hours per day. So this really shortens considerably the time that girls have available for schooling and professional training, and that ultimately affects their ability to compete economically.

Marital norms like child marriage, which affects one in three girls under the age of eighteen and one in nine under the age of fifteen, that can curtail education for girls, but also impede their future employment potential.

And views about acceptability of women’s work outside the home also constrains their workplace opportunities. So the ILO and Gallup have done a recent study that shows that 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women worldwide still believe it is unacceptable for women to hold jobs outside the home, and this is true even in many middle- and upper-income countries: China, Turkey, South Korea. Upwards of 60 percent of people still believe that men are more entitled to jobs than women when jobs are scarce.

So why do these barriers to women’s workplace economic participation matter? Now that we’ve talked about the status of women in the economy, I’m going to answer our next question, which is why advancing women’s economic participation is related to U.S. interests in economic growth.

And today there’s a really strong pool of evidence that demonstrates the relationship between women’s workplace participation and growth; that it’s not just a rights issue, but there’s actually an economic imperative at play. There are leading financial/economic institutions like the World Economic Forum that find that countries in which the gender gap is closest to being closed are those that are more economically prosperous and secure.

And we’ve seen similar results from studies in the private sector. For example, in 2015 McKinsey Global Institute released a study assessing the potential gain of gender equality in workforce participation at between $12 (trillion) and $28 trillion globally. So to put that another way, that’s about 26 percent of annual global GDP if we closed the gap between men and women in the workplace. So think about that. At a moment when nations around the world have been roiled by economic challenges, we’re leaving trillions of dollars of economic potential on the table.

And there’s also research that supports the notion that women’s economic participation matters not only at the macro level, but also at the micro level; that women are more likely to use resources to benefit their families and communities, investing in things like health care, education, sanitation, which can have a multiplier effect at the local level.

So there’s been a wave of activism not only in the U.S., but around the world over the last few years highlighting many of these barriers—in particular, the issue of violence and harassment in the workplace. But even before this wave began, political leaders had started to recognize the economic imperative of women’s workforce participation, and I’ll just give a few examples.

In the 1990s, Canadian lawmakers eliminated the so-called marriage penalty, a product of the tax code that had depressed incomes of secondary earners by requiring couples to pay higher rates in comparison to single taxpayers. In Japan we saw Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Womenomics agenda, which put female workers at the center of the country’s growth strategy by increasing childcare benefits and incentivizing workplace reforms that were family friendly. And in Bangladesh we saw Cabinet ministers seeking to advance economic development by increasing the share of women in the workplace through infrastructure initiatives such as bringing electricity to rural areas to reduce the burden of unpaid labor on women.

And countries that have pursued these strategies have also, importantly, seen results. So in India, after two states changed their succession laws in the 1990s to grant women the same right to inherit family property as men, women became more likely to open bank accounts, their families enjoyed more financial stability, you know, according to studies by the World Bank. Similarly, we saw in Ethiopia the government eliminate a requirement for women to obtain their husband’s consent to work outside the home, and five years later women in the three regions where this policy first went into effect were more likely to work outside the home and were more likely to hold paying jobs, as compared to women elsewhere in the country. So the evidence is overwhelming. A really critical path for twenty-first century nations to get ahead is to ensure that they’re not leaving half of their population behind.

And that brings me to our last question, which is: Given that advancing women’s economic participation promotes prosperity and stability, what is it that the U.S. government can actually do to advance this strategic imperative? We actually have, as a government, in recent years invested in a number of different approaches to elevate this priority. Certainly, the appointment of the first-ever U.S. ambassador at large for global women’s issues in 2009, which has been emulated now by ten other countries around the world, helped elevate these issues on the foreign policy agenda.

In 2011, we saw the United States first-ever APEC ministerial summit on women in the economy, taking an issue that is often relegated to the sidelines and putting it squarely on the head of state agenda. We saw in 2014 the U.S. work with G-20 leaders to set an ambitious target to increase female labor force participation by 25 percent of the next decade across G-20 nations, a goal that if achieved would add an estimated one hundred million women to the global workforce.

And in the current administration, which has been, I would argue rightfully, criticized for undermining women’s rights in the areas of health, and education, et cetera. This administration has also acknowledged the importance of women’s economic participation globally, working with G-20 leaders to launch the Women Entrepreneur’s Finance Initiative, a partnership to increase financing, to improve women’s access to capital around the world, a program that really expanded the Women’s Entrepreneur’s Opportunity facility that existed prior to that, unveiling a governmentwide initiative to advance women’s economic participation globally, which followed the passage of legislation in 2018 on this issue called the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act.

So there’s been a number of great initiatives over the last several years and several administrations to elevate this priority. But I would argue that to truly generate returns on the investments that we’re making in women’s entrepreneurship around the world, we need a more comprehensive approach. Greater access to capital is important, but it will only go so far if women remain legally prohibited from entering in business relationships or holding positions that are available to me, and if structural barriers impede women’s ability to have and gain the skills they need to participate or, importantly, if cultural barriers continue to block their path once they enter the workforce.

So at the Council, we’ve released a report called Building Inclusive Economies to outline several recommendations for what the U.S. government can be doing through its foreign policy apparatus to address some of the remaining legal, structural, and cultural barriers that I referenced. And I’ll just give a few quick examples before we turn to our discussion. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, an aid agency of our government, evaluates the legal position of women in a given country when making decisions about whether to provide assistance in the first instance, assessing factors like women’s ability to register a business, or sign a contract, serve as a head of household.

That policy, which went into place over the last several years, has created a so-called MCC effect, where countries have actually enacted legal reforms in order to attract U.S. aid. So in 2006 we saw during negotiation with the parliament of Lesotho, we saw the end of the practice of giving women the equivalent of the legal status of minors. In 2007, in order to secure MCC investment we saw the Mongolian government enact a series of property rights reforms that increased the percentage of female landowners. So this type of incentive model could be expanded to see greater change at the country level.

I also believe the U.S. should encourage similar reforms within multilateral economic institutions. For example, using our leverage at the IMF to make equal treatment for women in an economy a precondition of a positive assessment of fiscal health. We have seen that the IMF has already started running a pilot program to that effect, and it could be expanded to become a global norm.

And finally, if we’re really serious about advancing women’s economic participation globally, we have to tackle the laws and the policies that are still on the books that essentially rig the game against women, and thereby impeded broader economic growth. So one way to do that, the U.S. Treasury Department and the State Department together could release an annual report, similar to the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report, to really put on the pressure and, through that report, increase our diplomatic efforts to eliminate those laws and create a level, legal playing field for women.

So the research really confirms three facts about women’s economic participation. First, women remain underrepresented in the formal economy. Second, this underrepresentation stifles economic growth. And third, the U.S. government could be doing more to boost global economic growth by elevating the status of women overall. So, Shannon, why don’t I pause there, and I look forward to your questions and to getting into our discussion.

O’NEIL: Great. Thank you, Rachel. That was great. And that was a great overview. And let me—let me start us off asking, just as I think about the U.S. government going out and trying to change the way other people do things, and make them more equal, and more amenable to all this, can we just—sometimes it’s good—let’s reflect back on ourselves. How do we do in the United States? Where are the places that we are doing well on gender equality issues, and where are the places that we aren’t? And why?

VOGELSTEIN: That’s a great question, Shannon. And I remember from my days of working at the State Department how important it is to proceed with humility on these issues, because there’s no country in the world in which we’ve achieved gender equality. And the U.S. could do a lot to lead by example, in addition for pressing for a level playing field for women in other countries around the world.

The United States did not come in the top ten on the Women’s Workplace Equality Index that we created at CFR last year. And there are a few reasons for that. And I would highlight in particular the lack of paid family leave. We’re one of just a handful of nations in the world without any form of paid family leave, which has a disproportionate effect on women in our workforce. And the lack of a childcare system, an issue that I think many of us are experiencing keenly at the issue and that will continue to be an issue, even when we’re in a position to reopen many of the schools and childcare centers that have been closed in recent months.

You know, that lack of infrastructure has a dramatic effect on women’s ability to participate in the economy, and really makes the U.S. stand apart from other nations that have very different policies when it comes to paid family leave and childcare. We also know from reading the papers over the last, you know, year plus that workplace harassment and violence against women continues to be a major factor in women’s ability to participate economically on the same level playing field that—as compared to men. And I would also point to investment in women-led businesses. You know, the percentage of venture capital that goes to women-owned businesses hovers around 3 percent. It’s dramatically low as compared to venture capital going to businesses run by men.

So those are just three areas I could rattle off of the top of my head, but there are so many others, I think, that we really share with other nations when it comes to a gender wage gap, when it comes to a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work on women. There are a lot of reasons where we stand to do a lot in our own government to reform in order to really have a strong voice of leadership on these issues around the world.

O’NEIL: Great. Thanks.

Why don’t we go to the first question? Teagan, why don’t you remind people how to line up for a question if they have one as well.

STAFF: Certainly.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

We will take our first question from Maryum Saifee.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much. This was excellent.

My question is sort of focused on the U.S. and kind of leading by example. Women, and specifically women of color, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, especially in terms of employment. So how can we promote a more intersectional policy approach? That means striving for both gender parity and racial equity in reskilling, bridging the digital divide, and sort of closing this workforce participation gap that you talked about?

VOGELSTEIN: Maryum, thank you for that terrific question. And you have so much expertise to share on this issue yourself. Now, I would first recognize the important point that you just made about the intersectional overlapping forms of discrimination that many women experience. We see that barriers exist not only on the basis of gender but also on the basis of race, ethnicity, a whole host of factors. And we know that this affects women’s renumeration. So we see that the gender wage gap is bigger for African American women in the United States, Latino women in the United States, as compared to certainly white men, but also white women. So there’s a lot of work to be done.

I think the very first step is making sure that we are collecting, and disaggregating, and analyzing data on these different variables. There are too many places where we lack that information and ought to be at least collecting and analyzing it to create a baseline from which to create policies to address those gaps. There’s an institution that is called Data2X, which is focused on closing gender data gaps that relate to gender equality, racial equality. And those are often initiatives that are perhaps less exciting than initiatives that tend to get headlines. That in fact creating that baseline of data is a really important starting point.

You know, around the world we don’t have data, speaking of other nations in addition to the United States, about household assets. We can’t say which assets are held by women versus men, to say nothing of the other variables and the characteristics that you mentioned. So without that information, it’s very hard to talk about what exactly the gaps look like. So I think that’s a first step, but there are also a host of other policies, including thinking about leadership and participation in decision-making rooms, because there are plenty of studies that also show that not only are decisions in the economic sphere better when you have a diverse group making that, but that we also see that representation matters when it comes to addressing many of the gaps that you talked about. So those are the two starting points that I would point to. And it’s a really great point.

O’NEIL: Great. Let’s take the next question.

STAFF: Our next question will come from Ellen Chelsler. Ellen, please accept the unmute now button.

We will take our next question from Hani Findakly.

Q: Thank you very much. Can you hear me?


Q: Very good. This is an excellent discussion. And I thank you for that.

My question really is for a response to the issue of where the U.S. stands, and the fact that this is exactly one hundred years since women were allowed to vote in this country, in 1920. And as an economist, I just think of it in terms of very simple terms, half the world’s population ought to be producing half the world GDP and ought to be paid as much. But given the disparity of income that’s related to skills and what have you, to what extent has the U.S. done in empowering women by incorporating into our free trade agreements and multilateral trade relationship, like the new NAFTA and others, the incorporation of giving women—not just simply having more positions and pay them more, but to give them access to gain skills and opportunity so they can compete, and what is their worth?

VOGELSTEIN: Thank you for that terrific question. We are indeed marking the centennial of suffrage here in the United States, although we also recognize that not all women were able to vote, even after 1920. And then it took the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s to extend the franchise to even more women. And I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this question, now that we are a hundred years on. And I think that trade is a really interesting area that has really expanded on the agenda of those fighting for gender equality and those thinking about economic growth.

There’s a new piece of legislation that was just introduced by Senator Casey to think about how the U.S. could, through its own trade negotiations, put this issue of gender equality on the agenda. And it gets back to this same question that I raise before about how we assess kind of economic competitiveness and fiscal health. That having a level playing field certainly seems like a reasonable place to start as a floor. And just as we’ve been thinking through trade conditions that would best promote economic growth in other areas, you know, this is, again, half the world’s population, half the population of a given nation.

So encouraging the leveling of the playing field through trade conditions or other provisions in trade agreements is an area that is very ripe right now. And there are a number of other countries that have been putting these types of positions forward. The Canadian government, the Mexican government, officials in Sweden and in France. There are very robust conversations happening at the policy level in foreign ministries, in trade ministries. And I think there is a lot more that the U.S. could be doing on this front as well.

O’NEIL: Great. Let’s go to the next question.

STAFF: We will take our next question from Steve Wallace.

Q: Thank you very much, Shannon and Rachel. Outstanding conversation.

I wonder if you could address sort of the limits of the legal and structural remedies that you’ve outlined. I think in addition there’s probably cultural or educational carrots or sticks. And maybe it’s—when you mentioned that we’re not in the top ten countries, are there things that the top ten countries do in raising their children that give them a result that’s far more favorable than we have in the United States, as regard to gender issues, that are non-legal and non-political.

VOGELSTEIN: That’s a great point. The legal changes that I’ve advocated for certainly are one step. But a precondition to progress, but not the sole solution. There are plenty of places where we’ve seen legal restrictions lifted, and there are still cultural and social norms that affect not only the way in which women are treated versus men in the economy, but also the choices that women and men make. And so one phenomenon that I would point to that exists everywhere in the world is occupational segregation. We see that around the world that women, when they are concentrated in a given sector, that that sector is paid less than when men are disproportionately represented in that sector.

And what’s really interesting in looking at that from a cross-national or cross-cultural perspective, is that it turns out it’s not the work itself that generates the high wages, but the disproportionate concentration of men. So one clear example is medicine. Here in this country, historically men dominated the medical field. And it was, and continues to be, a lucrative field. In Russia, women dominated the medical field, and it was far less lucrative in that country than it was here. And yet, you’re getting the same antibiotic prescription or surgery in both countries, in many respects. So it wasn’t the skillset. It was the concentration of women versus men.

That occupational segregation is a phenomenon we see everywhere in the world. In our country, we see in particular very high-wage sectors, like technology, science, engineering, those tend to be male dominated. And we see a drop off, even at the middle and high-school level. We see girls who start out learning STEM skills dropping off, so that by the time you see selections of college majors or graduate school choices, that we already have an economic effect as compared to the disproportionate concentration of men in those sectors than women, even at the level of tertiary education.

So there is a lot more that can be done to promote equality for girls and boys at the primary and secondary school level, even by requiring STEM education as a baseline. Computer science mainstreaming throughout public and private education, for example, where it becomes not something that you opt into but something that is standard. That could have an effect that then affects, you know, the choices that are made in—at the tertiary level. So that’s just one example. And I think you’re absolutely right that more needs to be done to consider those cultural and social norms, and what incentives we can create or policy tweaks we can make, like mainstreaming curriculum across the board, that could produce different results.

O’NEIL: You know, Rachel, let me jump in and ask: I mean, one thing is to, you know, deal with the segregation by occupation or the like, and another is to change the way the ladder is climbed, and especially when you get to the highest levels. So one is to get above 55 percent, or whatever it is, in the overall participation. But how do you get in the C-suite or the boardroom? And could you talk a little bit about, well, have any of those numbers improved at all, when you’re looking at that? I know there’s been legislation in various places, or there’s been particular funds who say they won’t invest if the board doesn’t have a bit more diversity. But talk a little bit about market mechanisms and/or legislative policy initiatives. Have these mattered? I mean, where are we going in that sense? How do you get more women into those rarefied rooms, let’s say?

VOGELSTEIN: That’s a great question, Shannon. And you know, I think that we have enough evidence now from countries that have put quotas or targets into place that those types of efforts really do make a difference. Whether that’s with respect to women on boards or thinking a leadership structure overall. You know, it really does make a difference to have women and really a diverse group of people—a diverse group of women, a diverse group of men and women in those rooms. And setting targets can really help overcome some of the unconscious biases that we know from plenty of social science evidence still continue to undermine women’s ability to climb to the highest levels.

I think that’s as true in the private sector as it is in the public sector. We still have a mental image in our minds—social science research bears this out—of what leaders look like. And as we continue to try and shift that image, having policies like targets or quotas in place have been proven to really be quite effective. There are also kind of systematic reviews that the private sector can put into place, even in the absence of a piece of legislation or a policy requirement that have also proven to be quite useful. So there’s that program called EDGE, which grew out of the World Economic Forum, which is essentially as LEED certification in buildings, it’s the same in the private sector for gender equality. To be certified by EDGE you need to take a number of steps to show how you are, as a company, changing leadership structures, analyzing data, and closing many of these gaps. And that type of private sector initiative could make a difference, even in a country or in a company where there isn’t actually a target or a quota that’s legislated by the government.

O’NEIL: Great. I think we have time for one last question. So let me turn to our members for the last one.

STAFF: We will take our next question from Ellen Chesler.

Q: Now can you hear me?

O’NEIL: Yes. Great.


Q: I’m sorry that I’m a Luddite with Zoom. Somehow I hadn’t pressed the right button earlier.

Needless to say, this has been just an incredibly rich, and well-organized, and concise conversation. But in your policy toolkit, particularly through the U.S., Rachel, I’m sure not by design but by simple omission, you left out support for family planning. So I do want to point out to this assembled group that we—there are two hundred million women in the world who still report unmet meet for family planning, that U.S. resources have diminished dramatically, obviously, under the Trump administration. And there’s probably nothing we could do better if we are able to take back our government to advance women’s equality in the workforce than to build back USAID and other funding for family planning and for, needless to say, UNFPA. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that, and other ideas you might have in that arena?

VOGELSTEIN: Ellen, it’s such an important point. And I’m really glad you raised it because it certainly warrants discussion at the sort of top of the toolkit that we were referencing earlier. There’s a demographic dividend, which you well know and have talked about and have written about, that economists have seen when family planning is widely accessible and available, and when cost is not a significant barrier. And that demographic dividend results in economic growth. And there are many countries in which, as we saw, the rates of access to family planning increase we also saw the—that women’s ability to participate in the economy grew, and of course we saw growth as a result.

This is an incredibly important issue. And certainly, we could be doing more through U.S. policy to close the considerable gap in access to modern methods of contraception, which we see in so many countries around the world. And it continues to be an issue here in the United States as well, where certainly when we think back to Maryum’s first question about disparities not only on the basis of gender but on the basis of race and other factors, that there are still many gaps to close here in this country. So I think it’s a really important point and one that warrants more attention, and importantly, resources.

O’NEIL: Great. Well, we’re reaching the end of our time. You know, Rachel in her remarks mentioned a couple of these interactive tools that she and her team have built that are on And if you haven’t checked them out, you should go because you can look up your favorite country, or your least favorite country, and see how they’re doing on all of these measures. And there’s other things you can play around with there. So they’re really fascinating tools. I highly recommend you check them out.

Remember next week we’re going to have another one of these. Bruce Hoffman is coming. He’s going to talk about domestic terrorism in the United States and its history. But for now, everyone please virtually join me in thanking Rachel for her time. We really appreciate it. Thanks all.

VOGELSTEIN: Thanks for having me. Take care.


Top Stories on CFR

Palestinian Territories

The leading UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees is engulfed in allegations that twelve of its employees were involved in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel. The agency faces severe funding cutbacks, with huge consequences for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. 

United States

New U.S. Census Bureau data shows the United States importing more goods from Mexico than from China. Will the shift change the global trading landscape?