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World Bank: Women’s Wealth Lags

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In an article published by the Huffington Post on Sept. 18, “Women Hold Just One Percent Of The World’s Wealth: World Bank,” the World Bank’s latest World Development Report, which focuses on gender equality around the world, stated that women represent 40 percent of the world’s labor force yet only hold 1 percent of the world’s wealth.

The disparity is startling. However, it may be due to external factors such as the sociological make up of the women’s community, as well as factors related to the women’s individual circumstances.

Before we examine the factors, we must define wealth. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, wealth is all material objects that have economic utility.  Which means any form of property that is owned that has value.

When it comes to ownership, housing, stocks, businesses or even a car can be examples of wealth.

However, depending on the country in which the woman lives, the marital status of the woman can also play a role in what she can own. In some countries, the laws related to this have been changing.  For example, in Brazil, in the Marital Civil Code of 1916, the husband was the household head, exclusively administering both family property and the separate property of the wife.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Law 4121 of 1962, repealed the provisions on the “partial incapability” of the wife and reduced the number of acts requiring marital authorization.

However, marriage is not the only barrier that can block women from obtaining wealth; but the careers that are available to them can also cause them to remain in the 1 percentage range.

According to the article, the World Development Report states salaried women workers earn 62 cents for every $1 that men earn in Germany, 64 cents in India and about 80 cents in Mexico and Egypt. Women entrepreneurs fare far worse, earning 34 cents for every $1 men earn in Ethiopia and just 12 cents in Bangladesh relative to every $1 for men.

Though education can play a role in salary, the report states that women now account for more than half the world’s university students, and 60 countries have more young women than men in universities. Primary education disparities between boys and girls have closed in almost all nations, and in secondary education, girls now outnumber boys in 45 developing countries.

Professor Daria Newfeld, who teaches finance at Dominican, stated that the level of education might not be the main factor in this wage difference, but rather the type of field the women chose to study.

“In school, I think women are socialized to think that science and math are not as important,” Newfeld said. “I know the school systems are trying to change that now, but the general idea is that you hear the stereotype girls are good at reading and boys are good at math.”

Women are also the child bearers of the community no matter what country they live in. Motherhood is a time consuming, non-wage-earning job that can cause the woman to not be available to work in a high level position that may require more than 40 hours a week.

“The ideas of balancing family and work also (play a factor),” Newfeld said.

Newfeld herself had to make a decision between going to Wall Street or becoming a professor.  A big influence on her choice was her desire to have the time for a family even if she might make less money.

Over the course of a decade, in developing countries such as places in Africa, things have improved in the workforce for women. However, the situation is still difficult for women relative to men in low and middle-income countries.

Sharmon Jarmon, Staff Reporter


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