Oct 18, 2019

Women's equality reframed

Illustration of a woman stepping up a bar graph in heels

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Slowing global growth and stagnating investment returns have created a fertile environment for a novel idea: gender equality. It has been front and center at the autumn IMF-World Bank meetings — now framed not as an altruistic appeal, but as an economic imperative.

Why it matters: New IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva looks to be bringing that imperative to the economic policy focused Fund rather than the philanthropically minded Bank, a major change for how issues of diversity and equality are viewed.

  • Among her top structural reforms, "opening up more space for women to participate in the labor market," Georgieva said during a panel on the global economy Thursday.
  • Not only has she stressed equal opportunities for women and girls in her remarks, it is also included in the Fund's official literature as a top priority for improving economic outcomes.

Why now: "Gender inequality hampers global growth and causes women to take on more debt, have lower pensions and higher poverty risk," Amlan Roy, State Street Global Investors senior managing director, declared in a presentation during the National Association of Business Economists conference earlier this month.

  • "The elimination of gender inequality is essential for macro growth, development and long-term economic welfare."

By the numbers: A study by S&P Global presented at the World Economic Forum this year found that by increasing women's numbers in the labor force the U.S. could contribute $4.5 trillion in market value, and that could have ripple effects that reach around the world.

  • An S&P study released Wednesday finds that firms with female CFOs were generated profits well above the market average.

There is a clear message being sent. Not only was the first session Georgieva took part in as managing director titled "Women, Work and Leadership" (and "not by chance" she told attendees), there has been an assortment of IMF presentations and panels dedicated to promoting women's opportunities.

What's next: A session this afternoon called "Unleashing the Potential of Women Entrepreneurs Through Finance and Markets" will feature the sole public appearance by Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon at the meetings along with Santander Bank Executive Chairwoman Ana Botín and World Bank President David Malpass.

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