Chapter 04: Markets
The Weakest Voices: Women Migrating in a Globalized World
The Weakest Voices: Women Migrating in a Globalized World
Almost 100 million of the world's migrants are women, and as Figure A shows, they form nearly half the total migrant population. READ MORE

Women's everyday lives are increasingly shaped by the dynamics of the market. Yet many of the assumptions about accountability made in the previous chapters do not hold true in this area, where decisions are often shaped by the principles of free trade and free financial flows and the diminishing role of organized labour. Nevertheless, women are learning to leverage their collective rights as workers and consumers in order to achieve important shifts in corporate practices.

  • The recent food crisis has revealed that women's role as critical drivers in building food security is severely vulnerable to market shocks if these are unmitigated by government intervention.
    • Women contribute significantly to the world's food production processes. In sub-Saharan Africa women contribute at least 60% to 80% of the labour required for agricultural work, while in Asia they contribute at least 50%.
  • A key path for women to realize their rights in employment is to ensure that companies adhere to national and international labour standards. But women's employment increasingly takes place as part of 'global supply chains,' where accountability relationships are often unclear.
    • Women dominate employment in most Export Processing Zones. For example, in Bangladesh 85% are women. Accountability mechanisms in EPZ, if at all present, are often limited to voluntary codes of conduct adopted by companies.
  • Women now lead the brain drain among people with tertiary education in all regions except North America.
    • In Africa and Oceania, 7% to 10% more women than men with tertiary education migrate. This has worrying implications for women's economic leadership roles in developing countries.
  • Men are 5 times more likely to enter managerial positions than women. On average 1 in 8 men expect to be in senior management, while this is true for only 1 in 40 women
  • Despite challenges, women are making important inroads towards achieving better accountability in the market
    • In Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, women are demanding accountability for gender discrimination from the world's largest retailer. This is the largest class action lawsuit ever filed in the United States.
    • In Bangladesh, women workers who once entered the garment industry driven by poverty and dispossession have today become increasingly vocal in collective action to support their rights, including the implementation of a new Labour Code adopted by the government in 2006 after 12 years of deliberation.