The State of Economic Mobility for Women

In the global economic landscape, the concept of economic mobility — particularly for women — is a critical yet often overlooked area. Economic mobility refers to the ability of an individual or family to improve their economic status, typically measured over a generation or within a person’s lifetime. For women, this mobility is not just a measure of financial independence, but a barometer of social progress and gender equality.

Economic Mobility for Women Today

Economic mobility for women has seen significant shifts over the past few generations as more women are paid — and are paid better — for work. A Pew research report found that “median hourly wages increased for both women and men compared with the previous generation.” Yet this increase has not been equal, as “at every rung of the economic ladder, women’s median wages rose by 50 percent or more [between the 1970s and 2014], but daughters continue to earn lower hourly wages than fathers did on the same rung.”

Globally, women’s economic mobility varies significantly due to diverse socioeconomic and cultural landscapes. In high-income economies, women have greater access to education and career opportunities, yet they still face challenges like the gender pay gap and glass ceiling. In contrast, in many low-income economies, women’s economic mobility is severely limited by factors such as limited access to education, restrictive cultural norms, and lack of legal protections.

Challenges for Women’s Economic Mobility Around the World

  • Access to education and training: In many regions, girls and women have limited access to education. This educational gap hampers their ability to acquire the skills needed for higher-paying jobs, effectively limiting their economic advancement. Vocational training and higher education are often less accessible to women, further restricting their career opportunities.
  • Gender pay gap: A pervasive issue across the globe, the gender pay gap results in women earning less than men for the same work. This gap is influenced by a variety of factors, including discrimination, undervaluation of roles traditionally held by women, and lack of access to high-paying jobs.
  • Workforce participation constraints: Societal and cultural norms often dictate the roles women can play in the workforce. In many societies, women are expected to prioritise domestic responsibilities over professional careers. Moreover, the lack of support structures, such as affordable childcare and parental leave policies, also limits women’s participation in the workforce.
  • Gender-based violence and harassment: Women in the workplace can encounter sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence. These safety challenges not only affect their ability to remain in the workforce, but also discourage other women from entering certain job markets.
  • Technological and digital divide: As the world increasingly moves towards a digital economy, the lack of access to technology and digital training for women can widen the economic gap. A 2018 OECD report found that “worldwide some 327 million fewer women than men have a smartphone and can access the mobile Internet” and that women are underrepresented in information and communications technology (ICT) jobs. This digital gender divide highlights the imperative need to include women in the tech industry, as their involvement is crucial for ensuring that the development and application of technology are inclusive, addressing a wider range of needs and perspectives in our increasingly digital world.
  • Impact of global crises: Global events disproportionately affect women. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on women’s employment and economic opportunities, rolling back many of the gains made in women’s labour force participation. Women are often the first ones forced to leave the labour market due to parental responsibilities, as was the case for many when schools were shuttered for quarantine. They are also more likely to hold part-time and low-paying positions, which are again the first and most severely affected by economic downtowns like those we have seen during and after the pandemic.

The Ripple Effects of Stifled Economic Mobility for Women and Their Communities

The impact of restricted economic mobility for women extends beyond individual financial independence. It has broader social implications including:

  • Economic growth: Nations that fail to integrate women into the workforce effectively are losing out on a significant portion of human capital, which could spur economic growth.
  • Family and community well-being: Women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings back into their families and communities compared to men, enhancing overall well-being.
  • Gender equality: Economic independence is crucial for achieving gender equality, influencing social norms and power dynamics.

How Generation Enhances Economic Mobility for Women Around the Globe

Here at Generation, we are a global organisation committed to transforming education-to-employment systems to prepare, place, and support people into life-changing careers that would otherwise be inaccessible. Our work helps promote economic mobility for women, youth, midcareer workers, and more, leaving meaningful and lasting impacts on the communities we serve.

Key Initiatives by Generation

  • Skill-based training and job placement: Generation provides employment programmes tailored to equip women with the skills needed in today’s job market.
  • Mentorship and support networks: We offer mentorship, helping women navigate career challenges and build professional networks.
  • Partnerships with employers: Generation collaborates with employers to create pathways for women to enter and thrive in various industries.

Supporting our work has a transformative impact on women’s economic mobility globally. By empowering women with the necessary skills, mentorship, and opportunities, we can work towards a more equitable and prosperous world. Donate today or spread the word about Generation to contribute to this vital cause!

The narrative of women’s economic mobility is a complex tapestry woven with challenges and opportunities. The progress in some areas is laudable, yet the journey towards true economic equality is far from over. We at Generation are at the forefront of this battle, striving to dismantle barriers and create a world where economic mobility is not a privilege, but a right accessible to all.

At Generation, our mission is to train, support, and place people into otherwise inaccessible career opportunities that can change their lives. Explore our employment programmes to see the professions we support, or donate today to help us create career opportunities for our learners!