Women in Comparative Societies
Introductory Lecture

Reading:  Chpt. 1 in UNIFEM report

Main themes of the Chapter:  Women’s Empowerment and Economics

0 Begins with the notion of “progress” a loaded term, very Western in its connotations, especially as traditionally defined

“For me, women’s progress is when every woman can make and contribute to informed decisions about her rights, welfare and general well-being of her society.”  Elsie Onubogu, ICTR sexual assault team, Nigeria (16)

What is your notion of women’s progress????

Asserts that social progress for the human race depends especially on women’s empowerment – why????

Do you agree that women’s progress is essential for human progress or social justice??


Women’s Empowerment
how defined? see p. 20 for list
knowledge, understanding or gender relations and how these can be changed (i.e. reflexivity)

sense of self-worth, belief that one can change/control one’s life

ability to generate choices, exercise bargaining power (with whom?)

ability to organize and influence social change to create a more just social and economic order


How we typically measure development/economic output particularly problematic for women


Traditional measures like GNP measure only paid work, formal work activities
And women DISPROPORTIONATELY perform UNPAID work and work in the INFORMAL ECONOMY

Economic Activity: Three Sectors

Public, Private and NGO sector (third sector)

What are these?  How do we distinguish among them?

What is economic restructuring? How is it changing the relative size of and the relationship among the three sectors??

Public Sector
 Shrinking, scaling back the welfare state
Privatization, privileging “efficiency” over social justice, collective good
Women overrepresented in pink-collar bureaucracies, low/mid-levels (which are being down-sized)

Private Sector
Shrinking, changing, fewer stable “full-time jobs with benefits” more flex-time, part-time, seasonal
More informal labor
Women’s participation increasing – two tiers
Well-educated, privileged prof’l women doing better, growing presence in formal economy

Poor women, women in developing world growing presence in informal economy, insecure industrial jobs

Third Sector
 Two kinds of labor – paid and volunteer
Paid employees in this sector account for 10% of all service sector jobs in many countries and roughly more than 25% of all public sector employment (25-6)
Paid and volunteer labor combined = 40% of the of public sector employment!!(26)

What’s changed?
(29) accelerating speed and scope of movements of real and financial capital (quick silver capital)

removal of state controls on trade/investment, i.e, neo-liberalism

new information and communications technologies

expanded markets

hyper-competition to attract capital investments/jobs  (“the race to the bottom”)

commercialization of more and more aspects of life (like???? Care giving, 32)

growing inequalities within and between countries

intense financial crises for many countries

increasing religious fundamentalism

How has globalization affected women?
Differently according class/skill/home country

Professional women – more opps.

Working class women – less security, fewer benefits, or loss of job

International migration

In countries, hit hard by financial crises, they are expected to “pick up the slack” when economies fall apart (see Box 9, 33)

Religious fundamentalism often employs a critique of globalization and calls for subordination of women to patriarchal control (31)