In the EBRD regions – as well as in many other parts of the world – women still face numerous difficulties in accessing the same economic opportunities as men. From labour practices that give women lower pay to legal and cultural barriers restricting their access to jobs, finance and property ownership, there are many ways in which economic systems continue to favour men over women.
The EBRD recognises gender equality as a key driver for sustainable transition and inclusive growth across its regions, and believes that equality of economic opportunity for women and men is a key element of a modern, well-functioning market economy and essential for sustainable growth.
Economic transition has changed the nature of men’s and women’s participation in the economies of the countries where the EBRD works. Both have generally experienced greater job insecurity, reduction of state employment and the need for new skills and ways of generating income.
Women, however, have experienced even higher unemployment rates than men and lower wage levels. Significant differences between men’s and women’s work by sector, occupation and type, (vertical and horizontal gender segregation) have also emerged.
With its Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality (2016-2020) the EBRD is committed to promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through its investments and policy dialogue.
It promotes a vision for a future where women and men, regardless of socio-economic status, have the same rights and opportunities to access finance and assets, establish and lead business, participate in decision-making processes affecting their lives and have equal and safe access to public services.
This is also reflected in the EBRD’s Economic Inclusion Strategy (2017-21) which integrates a focus on gender into the Bank’s transition mandate to support countries through projects and policy engagement in their transition towards sustainable and inclusive market economies.
As part of its work on economic inclusion, the EBRD has identified economic inclusion gaps with regards to gender inclusion (gender inclusion 'gaps'). These gaps guide the EBRD’s investments by measuring the extent to which different dimensions, such as the legal framework and social norms, education and health provision, labour market policies and practices, and access to finance create disproportionate barriers for women to access economic opportunities.
Examples of EBRD gender inclusion projects include: investments that incentivise and support clients to improve their corporate standards and practices to enable more women to successfully compete for jobs, training and promotion into management roles; the EBRD flagship Women in Business Programme which supports women-led SMEs to access finance, know-how and advice, and infrastructure projects that promote gender sensitive design and provision of services, such as transport, water, solid waste and/or district heating.
On a policy level, the EBRD seeks to address key barriers for women to access to finance through a focus on the legal barriers and related cultural norms that make it harder for women to provide collateral. We also engage with governments in parts of Central Asia to lift existing restrictions on women to access certain types of occupations (such as operating heavy machinery or driving HGVs).