Around the world, too many laws still discriminate on the basis of gender, with dramatic consequences on women’s ability to contribute to economic growth. To address this major barrier to women’s empowerment, USCIB partnered with the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), the Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Bank Group to organize an event titled “Bringing Down the Barriers: Women, Business and the Rule of Law,” with the support of the permanent missions of Romania and Paraguay to the United Nations. This event was held in parallel with the UN meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CWS) and in support of the 2014 World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law, which evaluated the economic impacts of gender discrimination laws across the world.
USCIB’s Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg gave opening remarks at the breakfast event, explaining that in some countries women lack the legal status to attain an ID, establish a contract, access finance, represent themselves in legal cases, or even hold property in their own name. Such discrimination places major obstacles to economic and social development.
“There can be no development when you ignore 50 percent of the population,” Goldberg said.
Speakers and panelists came together to discuss these barriers and how governments can address them. Other speakers included:
- Judit Arenas, director, external relations Deputy Permanent Observer, International Development Law Organization (IDLO)
- Cindy Braddon, vice president of international affairs at McGraw Hill Financial [now S&P Global] and ICC World Businesswomen
- Ioana Cesacu, secretary of state, Department for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection and Elderly, Romania
- Sarah Iqbal, program manager, Women, Business and the Law Project, World Bank Group;
- Pilar Ramos, vice president, Global Public Policy & Regulatory Strategy Counsel, MasterCard Worldwide
The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law found that women in marriages are required to give up certain rights by law and consequently lack the ability to make their own legal decisions, limiting their economic opportunities. The report also studied the evolution of these restrictions in countries over the past 50 years. Over half these obstacles have been removed, but in 90 percent of the 143 countries surveyed, at least one legal barrier remains, so more needs to be done to achieve gender equality.
Significantly, the report provides evidence to counter the myth that expanding access to the work force for women necessarily reduces employment for men. To the contrary, the report shows that men’s access to employment was unchanged by increases in women’s participation.