World Bank Women, Business and the Law 2020 Report: Gender Barriers Persist Globally

Only 8 countries give women equal legal work rights as men. The U.S. is not one yet.

The World Bank’s recent Women, Business and the Law report measured gender discrimination in 190 countries. It found only 8 countries give women equal legal work right as as men, and the US is not one yet

Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden scored full marks on eight indicators – from receiving a pension to freedom of movement – influencing economic decisions women make during their careers. The US ranks #38 with an overall index of 91.3 breaking out by indicator as follows:  Mobility 100, Workplace 100, Pay 75, Marriage 100, Parenthood 80, Entrepreneurship 100, Assets 100, Pension 75. 

A typical economy only gives women three-quarters the rights of men in the measured areas. The WBL index measures only formal laws and the regulations which govern a woman’s ability to work or own businesses– a country’s actual norms and practices are not captured.

Clearly, much more work remains as women in many countries have only a fraction of the legal rights of men, holding them back from opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

The report also provides summaries of 62 reforms implemented globally over the 2-year period since it was last published. 

Wrap Up

According to the World Bank, discriminatory laws continue to threaten women’s economic security, career growth, and work–life balance.  While progress clearly is being made, there much work to be done.  As a woman business owner with a passion for gender equity, I appreciate the report’s framework and measurement of laws and regulations that restrict women’s economic inclusion, and the important role it plays contributing to research and policy discussions about the state of women’s economic opportunities.