Women’s economic empowerment is a critical driver of sustainable development and societal progress. When women are economically empowered, they have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to the economy, and positively impact their communities. 

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), one of the most important steps toward achieving gender equality and empowerment is through women’s economic empowerment. In 2025, the yearly GDP would increase by USD 28 trillion, or 26%, if women and men participated in the economy equally. The potential economic impact is greatest in poorer nations.

The gender gap has made progress at varying levels and rates in different regions. Central Asia ranks third with a score of 71.2%, following Western Europe (77.6%) and North America (76.4%), according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021. East Asia and the Pacific hold the fourth position with a score of 68.9%. On the other hand, South Asia has a wider gender gap of 62.3%, ranking among the three lowest regions globally in terms of gender equality.

Based on the ASEAN Gender Outlook 2021, the representation of women in management positions across the ASEAN region is limited, with only 24% of middle and senior managers in the private sector being women. Additionally, women occupy only 20% of parliamentary seats. The presence of women in the workplace and senior management varies across Southeast Asia, but overall, the region performs relatively well with a higher female share of top management compared to the average.

Lack of financial access, which results from poor financial literacy and a lack of corresponding skill training, is the most prevalent and important barrier for women in business generally. Women may be prevented from easily obtaining credit due to some gender-biased rules that now apply to banking goods and financial services. 

The Role of Women’s Economic Empowerment

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty & Advancing Gender Equality

Empowering women economically is a powerful tool for poverty reduction. Women make up a significant portion of the world’s poor, and by providing them with access to education, financial resources, and economic opportunities, we can break the cycle of poverty. When women are empowered to earn a stable income, they can support their families, invest in their children’s education and health, and create a brighter future for generations to come.

Women’s economic empowerment is closely linked to gender equality. It challenges traditional gender norms and stereotypes, creating space for women to participate in decision-making processes and gain equal access to resources and opportunities. When women have control over their economic lives, they can challenge gender-based discrimination and advocate for their rights, leading to greater equality in all spheres of life.

The economic potential of women is enormous. Studies have shown that gender equality in the labor force can significantly boost economic growth. When women are given equal opportunities to participate in the economy, it leads to increased productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. By tapping into the talent and skills of women, economies can unlock new sources of growth and prosperity.

Building gender-inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems will promote women in business, reduce potential business opportunity loss, and bring in stronger economic growth returns because SMEs are a crucial engine of economic growth, particularly in developing nations.

In addition to other beneficial development results, the economic empowerment of women raises productivity, enhances economic diversification, and increases income equality. For instance, raising female employment rates in OECD nations to the level of Sweden could increase GDP by more than USD 6 trillion, keeping in mind that growth does not always translate into a decline in gender-based inequality. On the other hand, it is estimated that gender disparities cost the economy about 15% of GDP.

Promoting Sustainable Development Goals

Women’s economic empowerment is intricately linked to sustainable development. Women often have a strong connection to their communities and the environment. When women are empowered, they can play a crucial role in promoting sustainable practices, advocating for environmental conservation, and addressing climate change.

Women’s economic empowerment is thus essential for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Particularly, Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and Goal 8 on promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, as well as Goal 1 on ending poverty, Goal 2 on ensuring food security, Goal 3 on ensuring health, and Goal 10 on reducing inequalities, must be achieved to achieve these goals.

In summary, Women’s economic empowerment is not just a matter of fairness and social justice, it is a catalyst for global transformation. When women are economically empowered, the world benefits from their talents, skills, and perspectives. By breaking the barriers that hinder women’s economic participation and providing them with equal opportunities, we can unleash their full potential. Women’s economic empowerment is a powerful force that can drive sustainable development, promote gender equality, spur economic growth, and create a more peaceful and equitable world. It is time to recognize and invest in the transformative power of women’s economic empowerment for the betterment of society as a whole.