Is gender parity the key to economic prosperity? The IMF says ‘yes’

Why does the world need more women in the labour market and managerial positions? Kristalina Georgieva, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director, shares her thoughts on the Global Conversation.

Research by the International Monetary Fund suggests that global GDP will increase when women are granted an equal playing field in the labour market and decision-making roles.

More specifically, reducing the gender gap in labour markets could boost GDP in emerging and developing economies by 8 per cent. Closing the gap entirely would increase GDP by 23 per cent on average.

But why is women’s empowerment essential for economic growth and development?

Underrepresentation in decision-making roles, particularly in politics, is a widespread issue. Statistically, women account for less than 25 per cent of representatives in parliament in seven EU member states including HungaryIreland and Greece

The European Parliament fares better with a gender balance of 40 per cent women to 60 per cent men. The leaders of the EP and the European Commission are also women while some of Europe’smost influential financial bodies, like the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank, have female presidents.

When it comes to climate change, the EIBdiscovered in 2022 that increasing the number of women in corporate decision-making roles could lead to a 0.5 per cent drop in CO2 emissions.

So how can Europe increase the number of women in positions of power to fast-track sustainable development and boost economic growth? Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the IMF shares her thoughts on the latest episode of the Global Conversation.

Europe still has work to do

**Sasha Vakulina, Euronews:**Ms Georgieva, two thirds of the world’s most prosperous countries in the world are in Europe, and yet income inequality is rife across the continent. How does inequality affect economic growth?

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director: Growth and inequality are very tightly connected. But let me make a very important point for Europe: as a European, I’m proud that Europe is a place where attention to inclusion and equality has been relatively higher than in many other places. And as a result, Europe enjoys social safety nets, that were put to work after COVID-19, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to protect the most vulnerable people of society. 

Now, this being said, can Europe strive to do even better? Of course, it can. Because what we face in Europe and actually across the world is very anaemic growth, slow growth. How can we boost growth prospects? Well, by tapping into all the resources we have. And that takes us to a particular aspect of inequality, which is gender inequality. Bring women into the labour force, into the power of our societies and economies more, and we would tremendously benefit.

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Let’s let’s look at it in detail. With traditional growth engines sputtering, many economies, as you said, are missing out, by not tapping into women’s potential. Now, how much are we missing out on?

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director: Well, we are missing a lot. Unfortunately, based on the most recent World Bank analysis, there is not a single country on our beautiful planet where women are fully equal to men. So we have a work to do. And I can say from the analysis we do at the IMF, that the evidence is so overwhelming that everybody benefits. 

In these days of slow growth, we can get up to a 23 per cent increase in GDP if we take in the emerging markets and developing economies. Looking at the global average, it is a 20 per cent increase. Why wouldn’t we want to do it, all of us?

Mind the gap

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Well, as you said, why not tap into that potential? We understand the stats, they are shocking, we know the reasons, and we know the possible benefits. How else can we push to make that happen?

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director: The way to push is to have a credible data-based policy foundation. There is a very important ‘closing the data gaps initiative’ that the G20 has promoted. Part of it is to have credible data on the distribution of income, on what we should know when we make decisions as to how to eliminate these barriers. 

We know that tax policies can help, we know that investment in early childcare can help, and we know that safe transportation can help so that women are not afraid to get on a bus or the metro. And we also know that how women are treated by the financial system can help, when women have access to finance on equal footing and they still don’t.

A small story from Brussels

Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: Ms Georgieva, despite significant progress in recent decades on the current pace of reforms, global gender gaps are estimated to close over the next three centuries. I’ll repeat that: three centuries! And one of the most important measures to improve the situation is increasing women’s representation in decision-making positions. This is something that you’ve got a lot to share about. How thorny was your path and what’s your take on that?

Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director: Well, I, started, my professional career as a young professor in Bulgaria. And, from the early days, one thing was clear to me: to be treated as equal, I have to work harder than my male colleagues. And I regret to say that has remained my experience almost throughout my whole professional life. So what I can tell women, young women in particular, is, despite that, there may be obstacles, but:

1.  You can do it. You’re strong, you’re smart. You’re beautiful. You can step forward for yourself but also contribute to society by doing so. 

2.  When you do it – and that is a very important lesson I learned personally, and I saw it time and again in my professional life – believe in yourself. Do not hesitate to present your credentials with confidence. 

When I was vice president for Human Resources we had a very important target to increase the proportion of women in senior positions to 40 per cent. And I can say the Commission did a great job but one thing that I noticed was we had two finalists, a man and a woman. They were interviewed and assessed against five criteria and had some strengths and weaknesses. They covered three of the five and less of the other two. 

How did the man approach the interview? He said: “Look, I covered the most important three criteria in full, and I’m bringing my fantastic personality to the job. Of course, I’m the best person for the job”.

 How did the woman interview? She said: “Well, I only covered three of the criteria, I don’t know, maybe there is somebody better than me”.

 Don’t do that. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others believe in you? And I would also say to women: work with other women. There is strength in a critical mass. I see it everywhere. 

I see it at the Fund (IMF), I saw it at the World Bank, at the European Commission, when we have more women around the table, you can feel the energy in the room, and we make better decisions because we can provide different perspectives in those conversations.

So, step forward for yourself, for girls and women, for boys and men. Do your part for society!

For Sasha’s full report click on the video in the media player above

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Why it’s urgent that we fight for reproductive rights in Europe

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

On this International Women’s Day, we the citizens of Europe have a chance to let our voices be heard. We demand the protection of women’s rights today and into the future, Nika Kovač writes.


Marta, Anna, Jusyna, Beata, Iza, Joanna, Izabela, Alicija, Dorota. These are just some of the names of women who have died in Poland due to an almost total ban on abortion. 

This ban has a devastating impact on many women and their families. And yet, Poland was one of the first European countries to introduce legal rights to abortion back in 1932.

This striking turnaround didn’t happen overnight. It happened gradually, starting in the 1990s, and by 2020 an almost total ban was passed by the Constitutional Court in a decision that is generally perceived as politically motivated and is in discord with the majority of Polish people who support abortion in all or most circumstances.

It shows how quickly reproductive rights can be threatened, and that every generation needs to fight for them all over again.

Around the world, women’s control of their bodies is being undermined. The decision by the US Supreme Court in June 2022 to overturn the rights afforded women by Roe vs Wade was a seismic shift but elsewhere, away from the glare of publicity, reproductive rights are threatened by attacks that are more subtle – but just as insidious.

The UK has seen a sharp increase in prosecutions of women for suspected illegal abortions, with as many women convicted in the 18 months to February as in the previous 55 years.

While countries such as Poland have taken legislative and other steps to significantly reduce women’s rights, a number of others still regulate abortion primarily through their penal or criminal codes. 

This prioritises rules around what can and can’t be done legally, potentially putting women and those who assist them, at risk of committing criminal offences, rather than treating abortion like all other medical services, which are focused on meeting an individual’s healthcare needs.

Many EU countries restrict access through economic and practical hurdles, including highly restrictive timeframes to access abortion, obligatory non-medical steps such as counselling and waiting times, and financial requirements, eg excluding abortion from insurance and free healthcare provision. 

After Roe v Wade was overturned, the European Parliament reacted to the situation by MEPs passing a resolution in 2022 calling for the European Council to enshrine “the right to safe and legal abortion” in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

But this resolution and other statements by visible EU functionaries didn’t lead to much concrete action.

We’re putting women’s lives at risk

Abortion laws in Poland and Malta remain the strictest, in addition, many countries still have provisions in place that make access for women very difficult. 

Germany and Belgium, for example, require medically unnecessary procedures, such as counselling and a waiting period, before abortion can be accessed. 

In Italy, women struggle to find doctors willing to carry out abortions due to laws that provide for a “conscientious objector” status, which has been adopted by around two-thirds of doctors. 

In Spain, where conscientious objection among physicians is also high in some regions, women are often forced to travel long distances in search of a doctor who will carry out the procedure they need. 

Although abortion is possible within the first three months of pregnancy in Austria, it is not covered by health insurance, leaving women to cover the €300 to €1,000 themselves.

These provisions disproportionately disadvantage women with limited resources, and those in difficult circumstances, for example, young women or people with pre-existing or pregnancy-related illnesses.

Needless to say, this situation causes needless suffering and is putting women’s health, and lives, at risk.


Things might get worse post-European elections

Abortion and reproductive rights have rarely been high up the agenda of the EU and the EU elections. 

However, it seems that might change in the run-up to the European ballot in June this year. 

Current projections indicate a surge in strength for the far-right which often has anti-abortion positions in their agenda, building on recent electoral wins in the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Sweden.

On the other hand, recent successes, such as the vote in France to enshrine women’s right to an abortion in the Constitution, are positive.

The stark reality is that well-funded internationally connected neoconservative actors that take their steps from the same playbook are trying to erode existing rights all across Europe. 


Recent polling shows that the majority of EU citizens support access to abortion for women in all or most situations, but this is not enough on its own to ensure those rights are protected.

All of this has brought activists together from across the EU to launch the My Voice, My Choice European Citizens’ Initiative, or ECI. 

An EU mechanism could be the solution

An ECI allows any citizens in the EU to gather signatures in support of a cause, and to put their proposal to the European Commission for consideration. 

To qualify, initiatives must be supported by 1 million or more people from at least seven EU countries within the specified timeframe. It is the only mechanism by which EU citizens can call on the European Commission to propose new legislation.

My Voice, My Choice is a grassroots coalition for reproductive rights, bringing together committed individuals and organisations to argue for action to be taken to turn support for abortion rights into reality for all women in the EU. 


We are proposing the creation of a fund that will support member states in providing safe and accessible abortion care to all who need it in accordance with their laws. 

The fund will support the creation of safe and accessible abortion services in areas where this is needed and also enable women in need of abortion services to travel across EU borders if necessary. 

We are waiting for the European Commission to register our initiative so that we can start collecting signatures.

Citizens of Europe have a chance to speak up

The campaign is rooted in the belief that every woman should have the right to make informed decisions about her body without facing unnecessary barriers or endangering her health and well-being, based on the understanding that the right to choose is a common value. 

It is the absence of a ban; it is neither an instruction nor a guideline. It is only an option that is given to every woman. 


It is a fundamental principle of public health that does not differentiate between individuals. It’s an open space where a woman is free to decide so that in the end she can say: “This was my decision.”

The My Voice, My Choice overall goal is to safeguard and advance abortion rights across Europe, ensuring that all women have access to the safe, respectful, and legal healthcare services they deserve. 

We cannot take the right to safe access to abortion for granted. That is why our message on this year’s International Women’s Day is that we the citizens of Europe have a chance to speak up, to let our voices be heard and that we demand the protection of women’s rights today and into the future.

Nika Kovač is the founding director of the 8th of March Research Institute, a movement-building organization that uses storytelling and advocacy to confront gender and economic inequalities.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.


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Spain’s powerful feminist movement split over trans and rape laws

Just half an hour separated the start of two big feminist rallies which took place in Madrid this week. On one side, the 8M Commission. On the other, the Madrid Feminist Movement.

This was the second consecutive year that the protests for International Women’s Day had split, but this time round the divisions were deeper. 

The strength of the Spanish feminist movement has been weakened by internal wrangling. 

Myriam Rodríguez, a journalist from Madrid, had been debating with her friends which rally the would go to: last year she chose to boycott both of them. 

“I didn’t go to any of them because I had a feeling of sadness and pain due to the lack of understanding shown by certain feminist groups”, she told Euronews, adding that she was not the only one among her group of friends who made this decision.

This year, Rodríguez did attend, and decided to march with the largest crowd, the one brought together by the 8M Commission — which has organised the event since 1977 — supporting new trans rights legislation and against the reform of the rape law. 

Their march gathered 17,000 protesters, according to the government delegation, while other years the number rose to 120,000. 

“I think it is the one that advocates plurality in feminism without trying to stand out as the only voice”, Rodríguez explains.

The Spanish ministers also joined the main rally, which supported the political stance of Unidas Podemos, the minority party in the government coalition with the Socialist Party.

Members of the opposition, attended the alternative demonstration, along with 10,000 people. 

Why is there a divide?

The marches in Spain for International Women’s Day reached its peak as a global reference in 2018, when a successfully organised nationwide strike consolidated its position amongst Europe’s most feminist countries.

But ever since, divisions have emerged in the movement over two new pieces of legislation: the ‘transgender law’ and the so-called ‘only yes means yes’.

The debate over the new ‘transgender law’

Two years ago, a group of women left the commission and decided to organise their own demonstration on Women’s Day”, Arantxa López, spokesperson for the 8M Commission, told Euronews. 

Arguing the new ‘transgender law’ would mean an “erasure of women”, the Madrid Feminist Movement decided to split from the general 8M Commission.

While López and her organisation support the law and gender self-determination, which allows a person to change their name and gender on their identity papers by means of a simple administrative declaration, Madrid’s Feminist Movement is strongly against it.

“The transgender law allows any man to identify himself as a woman and use spaces reserved for women. Safe spaces such as changing rooms and bathrooms,” says Sonia Gómez, spokesperson for Confluence Feminist Movement, one of the associations inside the new organisation.

“Self-determination is the only case where a person says they feel one way and the law listens to them; in what other scenario can someone change their legal situation with just a simple declaration? Any rapist can self-determine and go to women’s prison, as has just happened in Scotland”, adds Gomez.

To try to avoid this from happening, the transgender law establishes that the crime will be judged on the basis of the person’s legal sex at the time it was committed.

However, Gómez says that when they tried to discuss their disagreements, there was no room for dialogue, which is why they decided to leave the movement.

For López and the 8M Commission this discourse should not be valid. “This was one of our red lines, we are not going to accept any hate speech against transgender people, nor are we going to question the rights of any person in general,” she says.

“There is no framework in which to debate, because you cannot debate against hate speech. Everything that has been generated around the transgender law is based on hoaxes, it is a trivialisation of the process. I know first-hand how difficult it is,” López adds.

However, this is year the division has run deeper due to another law which was aimed at protecting women by increasing years in jail for rape convictions, but has caused the contrary.

What is the controversy with the new rape law?

Since last autumn the feminist movement has become even more polarised, after the Spanish Congress passed the “only yes means yes” reform. It was the Ministry of Equality’s flagship piece of legislation. 

This new law was made to give more importance to the role of consent. In order to do this, it merged the meaning of ‘assault’ and ‘abuse’ into the same offence. They ended up establishing the maximum limit for assaults with the minimum for abuse.

What was meant to be stricter than the previous code in place, instead has resulted in reduced jail sentences for 721 sex offenders and 74 have been released from prison since its signing last October 2022, according to data published by the General Council of the Judiciary.

This is why, this year, the march led by the Madrid Feminist Movement carried banners asking for the resignation of Irene Montero, Spain’s Minister of Equality.

For Gómez, who represents the Madrid Feminist Movement, the laws “are not well made” and are fragmenting the movement in Spain. “This law in particular has some good points, but in general it is not well done and jurists have already warned that it would get sexual offenders out of jail”.

Many voices have called for a change in the law, however the 8M Commission, organiser of the historical march, doesn’t believe in its reform.

Podemos and the Ministry of Equality also defend its original text and have voted against a reform promoted by its partner in government, the Socialist Party. This week the law was passed in Congress.

“We believe that the Ministry of Equality has not passed any law that helps women and the minister, Irene Montero, does not want to hear organisations that do not agree 100% with her proposals”, says Gómez.

 “They believe they are the owners of feminism and they don’t listen to anyone else,” she adds.

The division is more complex than being in support or against the transgender law or Montero’s policies. These are only the tipping factors that have caused the divided image of feminism and, even though the split movement is still a minority, their voice is growing stronger.

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