Women and the World of Work - International Women's Day 2017

On 8th March 2017 the world celebrates women. We celebrate the strength, tenacity and determination of women the world over to continue striving for equality, against the odds and in a world that has witnessed global events that put the progress of gender equality at extreme risk.



The International Women’s Day theme this year is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. This ties in with the increasing interest in Women’s Economic Empowerment after the High Level Panel produced its first report in September 2016. The report highlights some important areas that limit women’s economic empowerment, such as unpaid care work, women’s decision making power and social norms in the workplace, which the “market” will not necessarily address. However market actors and private sector can innovate to find ways of ensuring women’s economic empowerment within supply chains and in the workplace. Support to social enterprise, women’s collective action (e.g. market associations and cooperatives) and women’s education (from basic literacy to science and ICT training) and action to stop violence against women in the workplace and in the home – are all areas that the private sector can invest in to build women’s economic empowerment and increase their business productivity and profitability.

WISE Development has been supporting a range of programmes to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment, specifically women’s economic empowerment, since 2001.  Recent work on social enterprise and social movements has added to our learning. We have found that culture, attitudes and behaviours within programme teams and within companies influence how well they can integrate approaches for gender equality and women’s empowerment.


What has WISE learnt about supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment?

We recommend that programmes:

  • Build capability and social norms within your team, business, partners and suppliers that support gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • Emphasise leadership – making sure women are in key leadership positions, that leaders support gender equality in the workplace and in supply chains, and that women have the skills to be confident leaders.
  • Understand that progress for women’s economic empowerment requires a long term and transformational approach, with consistent investment to address barriers that women face in the market, in the workplace, on the way to work and in the home.
  • Ensure you have a holistic understanding of women’s economic empowerment that recognises women’s power and agency, access to resources and assets, and structure, as well as economic advancement. (See ICRW WEE framework http://www.icrw.org/publications/understanding-and-measuring-womens-economic-empowerment/)
  • Push the boundaries of women’s socially accepted economic activity – build opportunities for women in science, in ICT, engineering, plumbing, transport etc. Do not allow teams to make assumptions that limit women to low value, saturated markets.
  • Make the investment to address other barriers that are not always “facilitated” by the market – e.g. childcare, elderly care, action to tackle violence against women, girls and LGBTI, access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services.


Our learning from the experience of mainstreaming gender into market-based systems demonstrates that positioning of the messaging to show the business benefits of addressing gender-based constraints in production systems is key.  Initial resistance to understanding of how gender is relevant to making markets work in a more equitable way for women and men, can be overcome through training and gathering evidence of the benefits of women’s economic empowerment.



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