The Win-Win Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Growth: Review of the Literature

GrOW, the program on Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women, of IDRC, DFID and the Hewlett Foundation, explores among other things the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and growth. The topic has achieved considerable interest in recent years, and this paper provides an overview of main publications in this area: what has the literature taught us so far about how women’s empowerment impacts economic growth, and vice versa. This paper updates and deepens the review that was undertaken at the start of the GrOW program, including by Naila Kabeer (as documented in the first paper in the GrOW series), by Naura Campos with colleagues at DFID, and the IDRC team that developed the program.
The paper intends to set the context for the presentation, in the coming year, of the evidence generated by GrOW partners. Research by a consortium led by Göttingen University focuses on understanding heterogeneity in the impact of growth and structural change on women’s jobs, as well as the impact of women’s empowerment on growth. Similarly, the consortium led by the Urban Institute is carrying out five case studies on the ways in which economic growth impacts women’s empowerment. The project in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana explores how natural resource- led growth impacts women’s opportunities.
The goal of the empirical research supported by GrOW, and this review is to inform policies and actions that can promote gender equality. This paper does not review these policies, but we expect that the evidence on links between empowerment and growth can help inform the debates on how these links can be promoted. The literature showing ways in which supporting gender equality can also be good for economic growth, and vice versa indicates priorities for policies that ensures economic growth creates more opportunities and equal outcomes for women.

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