Closing the gender gap could grow the economy by $2.1 trillion

Tina Brown: We need more women in politics
Tina Brown: We need more women in politics

Want to grow the economy? Want to boost your company's bottom line? Hire more women and make it easier for them and for men to work full-time while balancing family commitments.

That's just one key takeaway from a McKinsey Global Institute report released Thursday.

The report -- called The Power of Parity: Advancing Women's Equality in the United States -- estimates that the U.S. could grow the economy by an extra $2.1 trillion in gross domestic product over the next decade if the private sector, policy makers and non-profits make more of a concerted effort to narrow the gender gap at work.

"It's the economically smart thing to do," said Kweilin Ellingrud, the lead author of the report.

While women constitute about 51% of the U.S. adult population, they make up just 46% of the workforce.

And they only account for 40% of the country's productivity.

That's in part because more women work part time than men. But it's also because the productivity measured for GDP excludes the estimated $1.5 trillion in "unpaid care work" such as routine housework and caring for children and elders, which women do twice as much of as men.

"The more equitably [that] unpaid care work is shared, the more likely it is that women will be able to work in the market economy and have a chance of rising to leading roles in companies," according to the report.

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It also notes that the gap between men and women in unpaid work is exacerbated by two things that can be changed: the relative lack of paid parental leave for both genders, especially men; as well as the lack of on-site childcare at work and greater support when it comes to taking care of elderly or disabled family members.

Every U.S. state has the potential to grow its economy by at least 5% if it can narrow the gender gap over the next decade, the McKinsey report asserts. That means boosting women's participation in the labor force as well as their (paid) work hours. It also means focusing efforts on creating jobs in industries that typically have hired fewer women than men, such as manufacturing and business services.

McKinsey estimates that 6.4 million jobs will be needed to gin up GDP by an extra $2.1 trillion by 2025.

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Creating those jobs will require an additional investment of at least $475 billion, much of which would probably need to come from the private sector, the report suggests. That money could be invested in everything from infrastructure and innovation to talent development and skills training.

Businesses, meanwhile, could work to promote greater gender diversity in their recruitment while governments can work on ways to make paid parental leave and better child care real options for men and women.

In addition, the reports suggests, both corporations and policymakers would need to work collaboratively to boost job creation through job training and ensuring that the United States remains a center for innovation.

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