- Gender equality offers a sizeable economic opportunity for any country. A government that hopes to achieve strong growth without tapping into women’s full potential is essentially fighting with one hand tied behind its back.
McKinsey Global Institute Research:
- New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) finds that Asia-Pacific economies could boost their collective GDP by $4.5 trillion per year by 2025, just by accelerating progress toward gender equality.
- The opportunity is especially large for India, where GDP would grow by as much as 18%.
Growth in three ways:
- According to MGI, 58% of the gains in the Asia-Pacific region would come from raising the female-to-male ratio of labor-force participation,
- 17% from increasing women’s work hours, and
- the remaining 25% from having more women working in higher-productivity sectors.
- But equality at work goes hand in hand with gender equality in society.
- While there have been notable advances in girls’ education and health, women across the region remain subject to traditional attitudes that define their primary role as being in the home.
- As a result, women often lack access to the financing needed to start or expand a business, and to the training needed for the modern labor market.
Tackling gender inequality is a complex, long-term challenge that requires broad social engagement. But there are five areas in the Asia-Pacific region where governments, companies, and non-governmental organizations could start to make meaningful progress:
- The first is women’s participation in higher-quality jobs. Starting with more flexible workplace policies, affordable childcare, and expanded skills training, particularly in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Moreover, in countries such as India and Indonesia, investment in infrastructure and transportation can reap dividends by connecting more women to productive work opportunities.
- A second priority is to address women’s underrepresentation in business leadership circles.
- A third priority is to improve women’s access to digital technology, which can open countless economic (and social) doors – including into finance. In fact, women have already begun to thrive in some of the region’s burgeoning digital industries. Building on these successes will require more training for women in the use of digital technologies. In Asia’s booming Internet market, digital technologies could be a double-edged sword: If the gender gap is not closed, women will be left on the sidelines of the technology-driven revolution sweeping the region.
- A fourth priority is to change social attitudes about gender roles. The traditional view that women belong in the home is arguably the largest barrier to women’s advancement in both society and the workplace. Leaders in government, business, the media, and individual communities need to work together to change such views.
- The final priority is to pursue more regional collaboration to achieve gender equality. Public and private initiatives tend to work best when they are tailored to specific communities and countries. For example, Asia-Pacific countries could come together to provide more financing for gender-equality initiatives, and to encourage more gender-based investment and budgeting. And, more broadly, governments could do more to share knowledge about which approaches work best.
- The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing and most innovative economies. It is forging an exciting new future, and assuming an ever-greater global role. Yet women are not playing an equal part in this drama, as many leaders have come to realize. Now is the time to accelerate progress toward gender parity, and to women’s power to deliver growth and improve social wellbeing.