Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Limitations of the Gender Indicators in the World Bank's Women, Business and the Law Program

Catherine Powell, Gender Indicators as Global Governance: Not Your Father's World Bank, 17 Geo. J. Gender & L. 777 (2016)

As feminism has come of age, it has powerfully instantiated itself into global governance. What are the tools feminism has borrowed – even co-opted – to embed itself within governance? Do these tools enhance or diminish the libratory potential of feminism? This paper looks at one tool – the use of quantitative indicators to advance gender equality in global governance. The paper focuses on the World Bank’s relatively new Women, Business and the Law program, as a microcosm of the recent explosion and popularity of gender indicators. *


Gender indicators are quantitative metrics that measure progress in securing gender equality. While this article views gender indicators as potentially powerful tools for reframing the discourse of law and development, it argues that in the context of the World Bank WBL program, indicators fall somewhat short, at least on feminist terms. Rather than transforming the development paradigm, the WBL gender indicators insert feminism into the prevailing (male-oriented) framework. As the WBL program itself admirably acknowledges, due to methodological limitations, its gender indicators focus on formal (not substantive) equality, the formal economy (without addressing the informal sector), and positive law (with limited coverage of customary law). By emphasizing the formal legal and economic spheres in this way, the WBL gender indicators largely ignore the private realm--(re)entrenching the public/private divide that feminist scholars have long criticized.

Gender, International | Permalink


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