Economic growth is more robust and sustainable when both women and men participate fully in the labor market. Yet across the world, women face persistent barriers in labor markets, as a result of discrimination and culturally entrenched ideas about gender roles. This is true in the case of unpaid care responsibilities, which tend to fall to women. When earning incomes, more than half of the women participating in the global labor force are engaged in the informal economy, rather than in salaried or wage work.
IFC works with client firms to identify opportunities and strategies to improve the workplace so both women and men can perform their jobs well. This makes good sense for business performance and employee morale.
Companies that invest in women’s employment gain an important competitive advantage, because they reach a wider talent pool, realize enhanced productivity and improved staff retention. Better jobs for women lead to higher income levels and more decision-making influence. That has broader societal effects, increasing household spending on children’s nutrition, health and education.
IFC leads SheWorks, a World Bank Group partnership to enhance women’s employment in the private sector. SheWorks brings together leading companies representing a variety of regions and sectors to regularly share knowledge and best practices in women's employment. The partnership builds on IFC's earlier WINvest initiative, which demonstrated the business case for hiring and promoting women.
The IFC-ILO Better Work program is focused on improving working conditions in the garment industry—a key employer for women in developing countries. The program supports factories in adopting adequate labor standards while also partnering with global brands to improve social sustainability through their supply chains. Bringing together local enterprises, retail buyers, governments, and workers’ and employers’ organizations, Better Work strives to improve labor standards, reduce the incidence of sexual harassment, and thereby, promote competitiveness.
IFC works with clients and partners in the private sector to ensure that women-focused initiatives and reforms are part of wider employment efforts. This includes women’s entry into management, nomination to corporate boards, and training in financial skills.