Article Excerpt: Women drive economic growth. In the second half of the 20th century, the entry of women into the workforce helped to propel most of the world’s developed economies. But women remain the world’s greatest pool of untapped labour: Nearly one-half of the world’s working age women are not currently active in the global economy. As governments worldwide seek short- and long-term fixes to waning economic performance, expanding opportunities for the 1.5bn women not employed in the formal sector will take on even greater importance, as will removing the legal, social, financial and educational barriers hindering women’s productivity.
To measure progress in the economic advancement of women, the Economist Intelligence Unit created the Women’s Economic Opportunity (WEO) Index. The Index aims to look beyond gender disparities to the underlying factors affecting women’s access to economic opportunity. It draws on data from a wide range of international organisations, including the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and many others. The result is a comprehensive assessment of the enabling environment for women’s economic participation in 128 countries.