The chief of the International Monetary Fund on Monday called on governments and businesses to do more to promote the same economic opportunities for men and women and to fight discrimination that interferes with those goals.
Speaking at a conference in Washington, the fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, said that ensuring equal pay and economic opportunities for men and women boosts growth, promotes diversity, reduces economic inequality around the world and helps companies earn more.
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“It’s actually good for growth, it’s good for diversification of the economy, it’s good for reducing inequality and from a micro point of view, it’s also good for the bottom line of companies,” Lagarde said. “It’s an economic no-brainer.”
Equal pay has been a hot issue in the presidential campaign as American women are estimated to earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have pledged to fight for better pay and work conditions for women. Trump’s critics, however, have questioned his resolve, pointing to some of his derogatory comments about women.
Lagarde said that developing countries can foster equal pay by channeling government spending to areas such as education, health care and infrastructure, which affect women most. Advanced economies can tackle the problem on the revenue side, Lagarde said, by easing the tax burden on families’ second income earners, typically women, and single-parent households, also usually women in the low tax brackets.
“Good fiscal policies actually serve to close that gender gap and to facilitate access,” Lagarde said.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the United Nation’s top women’s rights official called on governments to show more political will to give women greater economic opportunities. “The tone from the top makes a big difference,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
She added that it was high time governments were made accountable for promoting women’s rights. “It would really be nice when a government is toppled because they didn’t pay attention to women,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “And there isn’t enough of that happening.”