Closing the Gender Gap at USAID

To end poverty and promote peaceful democratic societies, the United States works to ensure gender equality and empower women around the world. When women play a dynamic role in civil society and politics, governments tend to be more open, transparent, and responsive. Women often lead the way managing and adapting to the impacts of climate change, furthering education, and building businesses. When women succeed, we all succeed.

To mark Women’s History month in March, Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) is reflecting on some of the great strides our client, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is taking to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment. We are proud to support USAID in its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, build vibrant economies, and unlock human potential on a transformational scale.

How is USAID Empowering Women?

USAID has a long history of support for women and gender equality issues. The Agency has a global network of nearly 200 gender advisors, point of contacts, and employees embedded throughout its missions, bureaus, and offices to accelerate USAID’s gender work worldwide.

For example, USAID’s Feed the Future initiative to combat global hunger puts women at the heart of its programming. Why? Because USAID knows “When women advance, it has a multiplier effect on their families and communities.” The Agency finds that women are more likely than men to reinvest the money they earn into their family’s health and education. A recent Feed the Future fact sheet offers these three reasons why the initiative prioritizes empowering women:

Women are key to solving hunger. They make up nearly half of the agricultural workforce in developing countries and when they have equal access to land and other inputs, their yields can improve by 20–30 percent, feeding up to 150 million more people.

Empowered women are better able to improve nutrition. Research from Ethiopia, Nepal, and Bangladesh shows that families and communities where women are more empowered have better diets and less child stunting.

Women’s empowerment builds resilience. After a catastrophic flood, Bangladeshi households, where women were more empowered, maintained or improved their food security.

Why is USAID Empowering Women?

The Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev) is one of the more recent USAID efforts to promote women empowerment. This office provides strategic leadership, training, and technical assistance on USAID’s gender equality and women’s empowerment programming worldwide and institutionalizes policies that empower women and girls. Here are three powerful reasons GenDev offers on how realizing women’s economic potential can enrich the entire world:

• If the same number of women as men participated in the global economy, global GDP would grow by $12 trillion by 2025.

• Providing online and mobile access to 600 million women could contribute $18 billion to GDP growth in 144 developing countries.

• Women are 18 percent more likely than men to pay back small business loans.

Numbers like these reveal the enormous depth of the gender gap and provide the inspiration to keep women’s economic empowerment at the heart of international development.

Women’s History Month

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, the team at Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) pauses to reflect on some of the significant strides in policies and programs taken by our client, USAID, to close the gender gap. Along with USAID, we recognize there is still much work to be done and we remain committed to improving the status of women and girls worldwide. At WBD, we strive to partner with those who can achieve greater and more sustainable development outcomes by continuing to place gender equality and women’s empowerment at the heart of their work.

Author: Sangeetha Shanmugham is a Communications professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement award with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)