Women and Foreign Policy Program

Women and the Law: Leveling the Economic Playing Field

The Women and the Law: Leveling the Economic Playing Field symposium was held at CFR in New York on December 12, 2018. This symposium highlighted legal barriers to women’s economic participation and explored how nations can boost growth by leveling the economic playing field for women.

Keynote Session: A Conversation With Christine Lagarde

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Despite the positive relationship between women’s labor force participation and GDP growth, legal barriers undermine female economic potential in every region of the world. Gender-based legal restrictions exist in almost 90% of nations, ranging from limitations on property ownership to prohibitions on signing contracts. In this session, Christine Lagarde discusses the economic implications of gender inequality under the law and outlines policy recommendations to accelerate women’s economic participation. The presider for this event is James Manyika, the chairman and director of McKinsey Global Institute. 

Session II: A Conversation on Financial Inclusion With Kristalina Georgieva

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Although financial inclusion of the world’s poorest is improving—in part due to the rise of mobile banking, identification cards, and other innovative approaches—the gender gap in access to and usage of financial services persists. Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank, discusses legal and regulatory disparities in access to and usage of formal financial institutions and highlights how well designed digital tools can promote the financial inclusion of women with presider Shannon K. O'Neil. 

Session III: Workplace Discrimination

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The global sweep of the #MeToo movement has highlighted the challenge that sexual harassment poses to women’s professional advancement. But other structural barriers in the workplace and enduring legal double standards also inhibit women from reaching their full economic potential.  In 2018, fifty-nine countries still have no legal prohibition on harassment in the workplace, and more than one hundred still have laws that prevent women from working in certain jobs. This panel discusses how legal and policy reform in the workplace can promote women’s economic empowerment and broader growth. 

Session IV: Women's Social Status and Family Law

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In many nations, family law creates a constellation of intersecting barriers—including requirements for spousal consent to work, inequality in inheritance law, and guardianship clauses—that undermine women’s ability to participate in the global economy. The path from legal change to normative shift is rarely straightforward, and efforts to reform remaining inequalities can lead to backlash. This panel assesses progress in family law reform, and highlights recommendations to effect legal and social change to advance women’s economic participation.  

Richard N. Haass, Christine Lagarde, and James Manyika
Richard N. Haass, Christine Lagarde, and James Manyika
Rachel Vogelstein gives opening remarks
Rachel Vogelstein gives opening remarks
Yasmeen Hassan and Hina Jilani
Yasmeen Hassan and Hina Jilani
Symposium audience
Symposium audience