For a long time, many people assumed that with economic development, urbanization and increasing incomes, economic gender disparities would gradually get smaller and smaller. As women gained more professional opportunities, the equity problem would just go away.

But that’s clearly not in the cards. Even after decades of progress toward making women equal partners with men in the economy and society, the gap between them remains large. If we want to see real change on the horizon, we need robust strategies to influence the attitudes of policymakers and other influential leaders.

The McKinsey Global Institute has been doing leading-edge work in this area by positioning women’s participation as a tangible, measurable gain. Women  account for half the world’s working-age population. How much economic potential could be unlocked if they participated in the workplace on an equal footing with men?

Or as McKinsey’s Jonathan Woetzel has put it: what’s the size of the prize?

The MGI has just released a report – “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States“- that quantifies and measures the value of women’s labor, then gives dollar figures for how much each state and city across the country could boost their economies.

The study finds that every state and city can add at least 5 percent to their GDP by advancing the economic potential of women.

The way McKinsey frames their results is crucial, because they help us understand not just the scale of missed opportunities when women aren’t equal, but the potential for real gain.

This makes it clear that there is one proven strategy for advancing economic growth: boosting women’s equality.

This latest report comes in the wake of another groundbreaking study by MGI, released last September – “The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth” – which looked at the same issue in global terms. The conclusion: advancing women’s equality around the world could add a whopping $12 trillion to global GDP in 2025.

McKinsey’s work is making a valuable contribution to the gender equity issue by subtly changing the way society frames the conversation.

First, they measured and quantified something we’re used to thinking about in abstract and incalculable terms. How much is women’s labor actually worth?

Perhaps even more fundamentally, McKinsey’s work separates the gender parity issue from the equity, or fairness line of reasoning. As compelling as those arguments are, this is about the bottom line.

By spotlighting and ascribing an economic value to women’s unpaid or underpaid work, McKinsey has created a powerful tool for persuasion.

When politicians, business leaders and other influential players hear the hard numbers and understand the potential gains of gender equity, the next step should be promoting and enacting policies that create change.

Shouldn’t it?


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