Women and the Economy: Incorporating Values and Equality into Economics


By Kelly Litt, Dominican Volunteer

Many participants from all over the globe gathered in New York for the 59th Commission on the Status of Women. Numerous events have been hosted by Member States and NGOs to discuss issues relating to women and girls such as migration, violence, education, human trafficking, and gender equality. On Friday, March 13, I had the opportunity to attend a session hosted by the International Alliance of Women  entitled “Why the Future of Economics and Economic Development Must Be Feminist.” This session was extremely exciting as it brought to my attention a concept I had never heard of before: feminist economics.

Feminist economics emerged in the late 1960s along with the civil rights, anti-war, and women’s rights movements. Still today across the globe, women are economically disadvantaged because they are often defined as low skilled workers, are often discriminated in the workforce, are not credited for unpaid (home/care) work, and earn unequal pay for equal work. These inequalities are not shown in mainstream economic models at all.

The mainstream model of economics is one of privatized markets and is measured by growth in gross domestic product (GDP), but that model does not benefit the most vulnerable peoples in society. Feminist economics (also known as social provisioning) was constructed on the idea that the goal of the economy is not growth in GDP or employment, but in provisioning. Provisioning is a process of human beings working together while measuring the success of the economy by its ability to provide for all, especially the most vulnerable. A successful feminist economy would give all peoples the ability to lead lives they value, would work to end inequality and poverty, and would give the most vulnerable a voice in the process. Simply put, this feminist economic policy prioritizes people, not profit.

March 20th marked the 3rd Annual International Day of Happiness. During an event at the UN to celebrate happiness, panelists claimed that happiness positively effects health, longevity, income, and even the environment. According to the World Happiness Index, they also explained that the wealthiest countries are not the happiest; measuring wealth is quite different than measuring worth of both individuals and a country. The majority of countries view GDP as being synonymous with economic and social progress, yet the data shows that an increasing GDP does not increase happiness. Incorporating feminist economics would allow individuals to find value and happiness which would translate to increased economic opportunities and growth for societies.

Incorporating a value system into economics would allow for a shift toward addressing poverty and inequality rather than focusing solely on profit. Through social provisioning and feminist economics, human well-being is at the center of a society’s economic success. With this innovative way of working for just economies and policies for all of humanity, this parallel event, along with others I have attended, gave me great hope for a future free from the marginalization and vulnerability present today – one in which all peoples, regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status, can lead lives they value resulting in a happier and more sustainable world for all.