A challenge worth taking: Gender equality by 2030

A challenge worth taking: Gender equality by 2030
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One hundred fifty-five countries have laws restricting women’s economic opportunities. Eighteen countries have laws that allow husbands to prohibit their wives from working outside the home. Gender based violence, lack of affordable healthcare, financial barriers – all obstacles to achieving gender equality – can be overwhelming.  All told, there is a $300 billion female credit gap around the world.

Add to all of that the fact that the World Economic Forum found that in 2017 the economic gender gap grew - and at the current pace, we will not see relative parity for another 217 years.  Global leaders would like to shave about 200 years off that timeline and close the gender gap by 2030.  Is this a challenge worth taking, or an unattainable dream?

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The United States’ development finance institution, OPIC, has decided to take the challenge. We cannot afford not to.   OPIC – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – has a mission to spur economic prosperity and foster global stability in emerging markets.  Women are key drivers to achieving both.

Today, gender inequality costs Sub Saharan Africa alone $95 billion every year. Yet women represent a market twice the size of India and China combined.  With better participation, women could add trillions to global GDP. Gender equality is a multi-trillion dollar opportunity that the world can’t afford to miss.

Beyond the economic opportunity women represent, they are also the key to stability.  When women earn a competitive income, they spend 90 percent on their families, on their children’s education, their aging parents’ health care.  By comparison, men spend between 30 and 40 percent.  So if we want to solve any of our pressing development challenges -- hunger, education, healthcare, gender based violence or human trafficking -- one of the most effective things we can do is empower women.

Recognizing the opportunity, in March of 2018, OPIC launched “2X,” a $1 billion dollar commitment to the world’s women.  Subtle nod to the female chromosome aside, OPIC named the effort 2X to represent the multiplier effect of investing in women and the mobilization of private capital.  For every dollar OPIC invests, the private sector will invest two.  Since the launch of 2X, the Agency has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to provide women in emerging markets with access to capital, jobs, skills and services to improve their lives, their families and their communities.

But as Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Enter the most powerful economies in the world, the G7.  Last June, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany also accepted the “2X Challenge” and committed to mobilize $3 billion to contribute to gender equitable change.  Together, the world’s largest economies are focusing their development finance dollars on empowering women and achieving scale by working with their private sector partners. 

By accepting the 2X Challenge, the G7 development finance institutions have sent a message: gender equality is a challenge worth taking.  And by working together, it is one we are more likely to tackle.

Kathryn Kaufman is Managing Director for Global Women’s Issues at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution. Follow her on Twitter @opicgov.