Girls are attending school in greater numbers than ever before, and women are increasingly entering the labor force and leading businesses. Although we should celebrate this progress, much work remains in order for a girl born today to have the same opportunities as a boy.

Research from the World Bank and others shows that unleashing the economic power of women can contribute to global growth. Moreover, it is the right thing to do. Fortunately, more countries recognize that economies can reach their full potential only with the full participation of both women and men.

The World Bank Group is supporting countries in achieving this goal in important areas, including the removal of discriminatory laws, investment to close gender gaps, broadening access to finance and stepping up efforts to prevent gender-based violence.

Encouragingly, our 2020 Women, Business, and the Law report—which measures how laws and regulations affect economic opportunities for women in 190 economies—highlights the progress being made. Since 2017, for example, Nepal, São Tomé and Príncipe, and South Sudan have taken large strides to remove legal gender barriers. Likewise, Saudi Arabia changed its laws in order to protect women from employment discrimination, and to prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during pregnancy or maternity leave. And the United Arab Emirates amended its legislation to introduce equal pay and increase female representation in corporate boardrooms.

Governments are also taking steps to ensure that women and men can balance parenthood with work. In the last two years, Fiji has lengthened paid maternity leave, and—along with Cyprus—introduced paid paternity leave. In addition, the United States recently adopted legislation to introduce paid family leave for federal employees.

Gender-focused policies and programs can further enable girls and women to realize their economic potential. These include targeted investments aimed at encouraging girls to stay in school longer, so that they are empowered with the education and skills they need to participate in the labor force as adults.

With World Bank support, for example, the Bangladeshi government provides girls with secondary-school educational stipends, and has introduced a life-skills curriculum. These measures have reversed the gender gap in secondary education, so that girls now outnumber boys in the classroom.

It is no less important to boost women’s mobility and encourage them to seek paid work. Here, success requires reducing harassment in public transport, taking working mothers’ needs into account when setting bus or train schedules, and ensuring that journeys are safe, well-lit, and accessible. In Lebanon, the World Bank aims to help increase women’s use of public transport by supporting efforts to revamp the transport sector with their needs in mind.

Broadening women’s access to finance is also critical. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private-sector lending arm, estimates that, globally, women-led businesses face a credit gap of $1.5 trillion.

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), based at the World Bank, is designed to help address this funding shortage and help remove other barriers women entrepreneurs face. Backed by the governments of the U.S., Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among others, the scheme aims to support 115,000 women-owned small and medium-size enterprises in over 50 countries, and to crowd-in more than $2.6 billion in private- and public-sector funding. Together with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Ivanka Trump, I participated in the recent We-Fi Summit in Dubai, where we discussed with government ministers from the Middle East and North Africa region how to unlock opportunities for women, including through improved access to finance.

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