Skip to content


Five lessons from the ODI Parliamentary Reception on Women’s Economic Empowerment

There is a possibility that by the end of 2016, three of the world’s largest economies (USA, UK, and Germany) will have a woman as their head of state. This may be an indicator of changing times, but the evidence is that women all over the world are still struggling just to access basic economic opportunities.

On the 26th October, ODI and Rachel Reeves MP hosted a parliamentary reception to launch ODI’s new report ‘Women’s economic empowerment: navigating enablers and constraints’, which contains recommendations for tackling this problem.  The reception responded to the call to action from the newly established UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The role of the panel is to lead in championing women’s economic empowerment, as well as make recommendations on how to improve economic outcomes for women in the context of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, specifically SDG 5: “the empowerment of women and girls.” The co-chair of the panel, Ikea Switzerland’s CEO Simona Scarpaleggia, and one of the panel’s members Fiza Farhan, were both amongst the speakers at the reception.

So what did we learn? Here are Itad’s five most interesting takeaways from the reception:

  1. Changing social and cultural norms will have to be central to economically empowering women. ODI’s research shows that 5 million people across 67 developing countries still say that women should not be allowed to hold any job for which they are qualified outside of the home
  2. Empowering women economically is not only a problem for developing countries. The chair of the UK’s Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, highlighted how the gender pay gap in the UK is still 30% for over 35s
  3. There isn’t enough financing for women’s economic empowerment yet. ODI’s report described how only 2% of ODA to the economic and productive sectors between 2013 and 2014 had a principle focus on gender equality.
  4. There is some great work going on to increase women’s economic empowerment all over the world, in the toughest environments. Fiza Farhan explained how the Chief Minister of Punjab in Pakistan established a special committee on Women’s Economic Empowerment earlier this year with an allocation of 9.2 billion Pakistani Rupees to implement the Punjab “Women’s Empowerment Package” (which is the highest provincial budget allocation for women’s empowerment)
  5. The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP described women’s economic empowerment as an “economic no brainer” – echoing the McKinsey Global Institute report The Power of Parity which argues that advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth

What does this mean for Itad? Well, an important element of implementing programmes to economically empower women is to measure the changes facilitated by such programmes. These measurements can then prove any successes, as well as be used to continuously improve what we do. Currently, Itad is implementing several programmes focused on improving the political, social and economic opportunities for women. It is important to share the lessons that come out of these evaluations with the wider development community to make sure we continue to get better at helping achieve women’s economic empowerment.