Press Releases

World Bank Group Launches Online Library of Laws Impacting Women in Business

In Washington, D.C.:
Rebecca Ong
Phone: (202) 458-0434                        

Maria Alexandra Velez
Phone: (202) 458-8789

Washington, D.C., October 10, 2008—The World Bank and IFC have launched an online library of laws and regulations that affect the ability of women around the world to participate in business. The library makes available hundreds of laws and regulations that prescribe different treatment of women and men in 181 countries.

The new Gender Law Library is part of a World Bank Group effort to monitor and analyze how legal and regulatory environments shape opportunities for women. The library is a joint initiative of the Bank Group’s Doing Business Project and the World Bank’s Gender Action Plan, supported by Vital Voices. It is part of a two-year research initiative on women’s economic empowerment.

According to World Bank studies, better economic opportunities for women are associated with higher incomes, higher literacy, better health, and faster economic growth. Economic opportunity is also critical to the Millennium Development Goal of achieving gender equality and empowering women.  

“This new resource is a starting point for governments, civil society, and researchers to get a better picture of the legal framework shaping a woman’s ability to do business,” said Penelope Brook, Director of Indicators and Analysis at the World Bank Group. “The library will be a baseline for researching which reforms of business regulation will have the most impact on women.”

The online library follows the approach of the Doing Business Project, documenting laws and regulations actually in place, providing a basis to analyze the impact of regulation—and of reforms in laws—that differentially affect women. While research finds that countries with burdensome regulation tend to have higher unemployment rates and slower economic growth, researchers have lacked easy access to national legal provisions needed to do cross-country analyses of how business-related regulations affect women.

Topics covered in the library include national legal statutes on property and inheritance rights, business registration, and employment. The library also identifies countries that are signatories of gender-related international conventions.

The library encourages peer participation, inviting researchers, donors and other development practitioners to contribute law texts, summaries, and comments. It is available at

Note to Editors: Media representatives are invited to attend the official launch of the library in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, October 11, by H.E. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany. The minister is also co-chair of the High Level Advisory Council on Women's Economic Empowerment, and Official Champion of the World Bank Group Gender Action Plan. To register, contact Rebecca Ong (

About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, creates opportunity for people to escape poverty and improve their lives. IFC fosters sustainable economic growth in developing countries by supporting private sector development, mobilizing private capital, and providing advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC’s new investments totaled $16.2 billion in fiscal 2008, a 34 percent increase over the previous year. For more information, visit

About the Doing Business Project
Doing Business ranks economies based on 10 indicators of business regulation that track the time and cost to meet government requirements in starting and operating a business, trading across borders, paying taxes, and closing a business. The rankings do not reflect such areas as macroeconomic policy, quality of infrastructure, currency volatility, investor perceptions, or crime rates.

About the World Bank Gender Action Plan
The World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan, formally launched in February 2007 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeks to advance women’s economic empowerment in client countries as a way to promote shared growth and accelerate the implementation of the third Millennium Development Goal.  The Action Plan commits the World Bank Group to intensify gender equality work in the economic sectors over four years, in partnership with client countries, donors, the private sector, and other development agencies. The World Bank Gender and Development Unit manages and coordinates the Gender Action Plan activities.