Despite progress in many societies, women almost everywhere still suffer from significant levels of discrimination. Even in countries where gender equality has advanced furthest, women are over-represented in lower-paying jobs, under-represented in senior government and business positions, and on the receiving end of most domestic violence.
In parts of the developing world, things are much worse. In many cases, traditional cultural norms prevent girls from obtaining any real education; lead far too many to marry and bear children while still adolescents; and bar women even from opening a bank account.
At the turn of the century, the international community adopted an ambitious set of targets: the Millennium Development Goals. Much has been achieved since then, including in the area of gender equality, but we still have a long way to go. Though girls in the developing world today are much more likely to go to school, they still grow up shouldering a disproportionate burden of poverty, poor health, inadequate education, discrimination, and violence.
Most people around the world agree that men and women should be treated equally, and we also know that empowering women is a highly effective way to help families and societies lift themselves out of poverty. So how can we achieve the most gender equality at the lowest cost?