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Megan O’Donnell is the assistant director of CGD’s gender program and a senior policy analyst. She works on issues related to women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion, gender data and measurement, and development effectiveness. Prior to CGD, O’Donnell worked at the ONE Campaign, an international advocacy organization focused on sub Saharan Africa, where she led the development of ONE’s gender and inclusive growth-focused policy recommendations to donors and country governments. Before joining ONE, she coordinated CGD’s gender research program and has also worked with the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Center for Research on Women, CARE USA, Banyan Global, and the Middle East Institute. She has a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in Politics and French from the University of Virginia.
Revisiting What Works updates the evidence first published in the 2013 Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment and, as with the Roadmap, privileges short-term interventions that the private sector can sponsor and undertake. The Roadmap used rigorous evidence from 136 evaluations to identify proven, promising, high-potential and unproven interventions to increase women’s productivity and earnings in developing countries.
The US has a unique opportunity to lead in improving economic opportunities for women and girls by establishing a global vision and a corresponding fund with significant financial resources to spur change. The next US administration should allocate at least $1 billion in additional resources—equal to a little over two percent of current US overseas assistance—exclusively dedicated to advancing gender equality in developing countries, with a specific focus on improving women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and outcomes.
For the third year running, CGD just co-hosted Girl Summit DC. Since 2014, the annual event has drawn together hundreds of researchers, practitioners, advocates, and government representatives to explore how to improve the lives of adolescent girls. These discussions have helped galvanize action from domestic and international policymakers. Again this year, we discussed solutions capable of affecting real change in girls’ lives—and opportunities for the next US administration to build upon its previous efforts and strengthen its commitment to girls in low- and middle-income countries.
The third annual Girl Summit DC—taking place this week and co-hosted by CGD, IWHC, Girls Not Brides USA, Population Council, the International Center for Research on Women, and CARE—will be an opportunity to push for more research in specific policy areas, including how to address harmful cultural norms and practices facing girls. Traditions that impact girls in the formative years of their lives is the focus of research at CGD by Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi and now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Center. President Banda will be speaking about the need to better understand some of these widespread practices.
The Obama administration has taken some important steps to put women’s economic empowerment at the center of US foreign and development policy, but there’s still plenty of work left to do. Researchers and advocates alike have made the case for why gender equality—and specifically women’s economic empowerment—is critical for achieving economic growth, eradicating extreme poverty, and improving the health, education, and well-being of people worldwide. This blog post turns to concrete ways that the next US administration can promote women’s economic empowerment, thereby maximizing the impact of its development agenda.
Women’s economic empowerment is increasingly recognized as critical to achieving development outcomes around the world. Informed by a roundtable discussion at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and additional suggestions from CGD researchers, this four-point memo aims to issue practical proposals for the next US administration, particularly aimed at economically empowering women and girls worldwide, as a building block toward the full realization of broader gender equality and women’s agency and empowerment. The recommendations build on those in CGD’s The White House and the World briefing book, as well as the CGD policy memo “A US Law or Executive Order to Combat Gender Apartheid in Discriminatory Countries” and ongoing work at CGD focused on women’s financial inclusion.
In 1996, Burkina Faso enacted legislation banning the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Much of the qualitative literature surrounding FGM/C discounts the impact of legal change on what is considered a social/cultural issue. We use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys DHS(VI) in Burkina Faso to test for a discontinuous change in the likelihood of being cut in the year the law was passed. We ﬁnd robust evidence for a substantial drop in hazard rates in 1996 and investigate the heterogeneous impact of the law by region, religion, and ethnicity.
We analyzed participant data from 12 gender-related events and 12 randomly-selected (but similarly-sized) non-gender-related events hosted by CGD, and the evidence is very clear: men aren’t showing up for gender equality.
Last week’s Girl Summit DC focused on child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM), the consequences of the practice, and solutions that will allow girls to delay marriage and reach their full potential. The event generated discussion about potential solutions, and raised a number of issues CGD will be tackling through its new Gender and Development Program over the coming years.
Women account for just 15 percent of all listed inventors behind nine million patent applications across 182 countries. On current rates, we won’t achieve gender parity in inventors until around 2080. It would be in the interests of both innovative firms and the countries that house them were we to pick up the pace. Leveling the playing field for women innovators would be good for them, good for employers and good for productivity.
As part of our new Gender and Development program, CGD just hosted the first annual Birdsall House Conference on Women. This year’s session, “Small Changes, Big Impact: Creating Conditions for Women and Girls to Thrive,” explored the possibility that cheap and scalable aid-funded interventions could considerably improve the lives of women and girls. Short answer: small changes do have big potential, but their limits should be acknowledged — and they require continued study and fine-tuning in order to be more effective.
The evidence is clear: integrating a focus on gender into the development agenda is essential if we’re serious about eradicating poverty, improving health and education, and promoting inclusive economic growth. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have taken this lesson to heart, but there’s still work to be done.