‘Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive.’ This International Women’s Day we’re taking a look at the work our flagship Economic Development and Institutions programme is doing to promote gender equality and empower women across the globe, from reforming social attitudes to child marriage to promoting female managers in the workplace.

Despite most countries having a minimum legal age of marriage set at 18 years, one in three girls in developing countries marry earlier than this. Kate Vyborny, Zaki Wahhay, and François Bourguignon discuss the affect institutional reform can have on changing social norms, using the example of a new marriage law introduced in Bangladesh, and how new training for registrars is improving women’s awareness of their legal marriage and divorce rights in Pakistan.

Read the EDI working paper on child marriage law, gender norms, and marriage customs in Bangladesh.

Garment factories in Bangladesh are facing increasing pressure to provide more opportunities for women. Despite more than three quarters of workers being women, female managers are rare. Securing the right candidate for promotion is essential to improving the output of a team and while the best workers do not always make the best managers, relying on intuition to make complex decisions during the selection process, rather than tests, leads to inferior hiring decisions.

A new EDI working paper reports the results of a field experiment designed to improve the promotion of women to supervisory positions, using a diagnostic tool to accurately measure ‘soft skills’ and remove gender bias in the selection process.

 Learning what to look for: hard measures for soft skills in promotion

By empowering women in the workplace, we also improve the chance for increased household equality. A continuation of the study into female promotions in Bangladesh garment factories has demonstrated that women in managerial positions gain increased bargaining power in the home, from greater say over their own mobility, to financial control. The positive effects of work promotion extends beyond the managers, as women working as subordinates of the new female managers, despite having no financial gain, also see an increase in bargaining confidence and decision-making in their households.

Working paper: Women’s promotions and intra-house bargaining: evidence from Bangladesh

Discover more of EDI’s research around gender equality:

  • Why do land rights matter? In this video Sylvie Lambert, Garance Genicot, and Markus Goldstein discuss how securing land rights for women in Tanzania and Uganda is not only key to securing greater equality, but to improving overall household wealth.
  • Read the recently published research insight looking at the importance of property rights for women in Pakistan, where over 80% of women are not receiving their legal share in inheritance.


This blog was original published by Oxford Policy Management.