Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2014

Women's economic opportunity: A new pilot index and global ranking

June 2014

Economist Intelligence Unit


Women’s political and economic empowerment has been a defining feature of the last century. Millions of women in the early 1900s rejected convention and ignorance to fi ght for the right to vote. Thirty years later the daughters and granddaughters of those suffragettes, defying stereotypes, flocked to factories to help build the machines that won the second world war. The next generation of women secured their rights in law, then entered the workforce in droves, fuelling economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s. At the start of the 21st century women are not just enfranchised and fully engaged in the workplace, but leading global corporations and countries of every size. Germany’s Angela Merkel, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and Pepsico’s Indra Nooyi are three among many. Yet after a century of impressive progress, overall economic opportunities for women still lag those of men. Women, on average, earn 75% of their male co-workers’ wages, and the difference cannot be explained solely by schooling or experience. In many countries, women have fewer educational and employment opportunities than men, are more often denied credit, and endure social restrictions that limit their chances for advancement. In some developing countries women still cannot vote, own property or venture outside the home without a male family member.