NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where Females Are Rising the Fastest

November 15, 2011

Traditionally, the best opportunities for women have been in developed economies, where women have substantially more legal rights and political power.  However, recent studies of female political participation, education and business ownership suggest that this trend is shifting, with the largest gains being made by women in the developing world.  While many reasons have been suggested to explain this change, it is clear that women in growing economies such as Brazil, India and Vietnam are rising rapidly, relative to their male competitors, say Joel Kotkin, executive editor, and Zina Klapper, deputy editor, of New Geography.

In terms of business ownership, the trend seems to have reversed for a number of relatively obvious reasons.

  • In developing economies where women have fewer rights and are typically confined by patriarchic family structures, their opportunities for traditional work are limited.
  • However, this has the effect of encouraging entrepreneurship and out-of-the-home business operations.
  • Women thrive in this regard in East Asia particularly, where 24 percent of Vietnam's 100,000-plus incorporated enterprises are owned by women, 11 percent in China and 13 percent in Japan.

In the sphere of education, women have made considerable gains worldwide, with an enormous amount of this change taking place in developing nations.  Between 1970 and 2008, the number of female tertiary (post-high school) students expanded by 70 million, compared with 60 million for males.

Political gains have also been substantial for females, particularly in South America and Africa.  Worldwide, the percentage of parliamentary seats held by women has risen considerably during the first decade of this century, and is now about 18 percent.  Much of this gain has been witnessed in Latin America, where women have obtained 30 percent-plus parliamentary representations in Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Source: Joel Kotkin and Zina Klapper, "Women Ascendant: Where Females Are Rising the Fastest," New Geography, November 8, 2011.

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