Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said on Monday that women across the world are being held back by an “insidious conspiracy” to keep them out of the workplace.
Writing on her blog, Lagarde said women’s promise “remains largely ignored and its potential untapped”, citing a new IMF study which uses a World Bank database to estimate the global economic impact of keeping women out of the workforce.
The researchers found that the odds are stacked against women all over the world thanks to discriminatory property rights, taxation and other legal barriers.
These factors mean it’s not just women who are missing out - gross domestic product (GDP) is suffering too. Countries such as Turkey, India and Egypt are losing billions of dollars in lost economic potential by keeping up the barriers preventing women from entering the workforce.
The study estimated that more than 40 countries are losing more than 15 per cent of their potential GDP. At the top of the list were Qatar, Oman and Iran with an estimated loss of more than 30 per cent GDP.
So what now? Lagarde says that there is no single solution to the gender gap, but changing laws to give women legal parity is a start.
In a world in search of growth, women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy.