Gender Equality and Macroeconomics

briefing-illustrationThe Gender Equality and Macroeconomics (GEM) project is a partnership between the Bretton Woods Project (BWP), the Gender and Development Network (GADN), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific), and the Latin American Network for Social and Economic Justice (LATINDADD). It is aimed at challenging the ways in which macroeconomic policies currently promoted by international financial institutions (IFIs) undermine gender equality and women’s rights. To change this, the project, initiated in 2015, examines the implications of current macroeconomic policy approaches in relation to gender, engages in direct advocacy and works to support a wide range of civil society groups and organisations towards building an enabling macroeconomic environment for women’s rights and gender equality.

Advocacy briefings (BWP)

CSO guides and toolkits (BWP)

Briefings and toolkits (GADN)

Observer Articles


For all BWP’s articles relating to gender equality, please find our dedicated gender page here.

Background to the GEM Project


Over the past 35 years evidence has been accumulating on the importance of macroeconomic policy to gender questions in industrialised and developing countries. We know about the positive correlation between economic growth, income equality and female labour force participation, as well as the negative relationship between economic growth and the gender wage gap. There is no shortage of evidence on the causes of these economic inequalities, including gender credit gaps, the relationship between economic empowerment and gender-based violence as well as to sexual and reproductive health rights, gender dimensions of tax policies, the disproportionate gendered impacts of austerity and the growing recognition of the significance of unpaid care and housework to economic growth.

This evidence has ‘trickled-up’ into the rhetoric of even the most powerful institutions involved in shaping macro policy. The IMF has produced recent work arguing there is “ample evidence” that unlocking women’s full labour market potential can entail significant macro-economic gains, citing GDP per capita losses attributable to gender gaps in the labour market as high as 27 per cent in certain regions. However, little evidence suggests that the IMF and other institutions have allowed the acknowledgement of gender as a ‘macro-critical’ issue to change their policies affecting outcomes for women and girls in developing countries.

Through this project, we will will seek to build pressure for macro policy change by raising the visibility of this issue, supporting civil society advocates, holding the IFIs to public account and actively engaging with the institutions, especially insider champions capable of moving their institutions forward. The project confronts the role played by IFIs as key shapers and implementers of orthodox macro policies which have damaged the economic prospects of women and girls for decades. By challenging and engaging senior IFI officials with the evidence and momentum gained by the project, we aim to ensure macro policies promoted by the IFIs contribute to rather than undermine the achievement of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.