The Benefits of Eliminating Gender-Based Discrimination in Social Institutions

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Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]
Photo Credit: S. Pereira, Thailand 2007

Across the globe, women continue to face inequalities in both public and private spheres, despite a growing body of evidence that suggests overcoming gender inequality could lead to considerable positive economic and human development outcomes – outcomes that include improvements in health and education, more efficient labor markets, better governance and economic growth. While evidence of these gains has brought a renewed urgency to achieving gender equality, it is imperative that we also gain a better understanding of the structures and institutional drivers of inequality.

ICRW researchers are currently exploring the relationship between gender-based discrimination in social institutions and the potential human development outcomes for women. The research team is using a human development framework that is focused on three dimensions of human capabilities: (1) knowledge, (2) health and longevity and (3) standard of living. The outcomes within these dimensions include adolescent fertility, secondary school enrollment and labor force participation. What are the gains that can be achieved in these domains if gender-based discrimination within social institutions is eliminated? What types of discrimination are most detrimental to women’s and girls’ social and economic well-being?

ICRW has found that legal and normative discrimination within the household has a significant and lasting impact on women’s educational attainment and fertility. Our team has also found that the regions that suffer the most from discriminatory social practices and legislation – and also happen to be the poorest economically – would benefit the most from advancing gender equality.

Eliminating gender-based discrimination would not only erase the high costs to human development but, we’ve found, could also lead to faster and more sustainable economic development.

ICRW will soon be releasing its findings in our forthcoming report, which will be released in the coming months.

Photo source: Getty Images. “Tamil women plucking tea leaves near Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.”