Business Environment Reform Best Practice – The Gender Perspective

BERF has published a Document Review on ‘Gender and Business Environment Reform: What is Best Practice?’ which provides useful evidence to guide DFID Bangladesh on how to mainstream gender into the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  Phase 2.  Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  2 is a £20 million programme which is being implemented by DFID Bangladesh in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation. It aims to reduce poverty in Bangladesh through sustained pro-poor economic growth and will contribute to the creation of 50,000 additional formal jobs, 40% of which will be taken up by women.

DFID Bangladesh requested support from BERF to understand how issues affecting women and girls could be addressed more effectively in its business environment reform work. The Country Office asked for support in developing a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  2 and also requested a separate review of relevant evidence documents.

BERF adopted a number of measures to ensure that the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  2 was grounded in hard evidence of what works in Gender and BE reform/ investment climate. The approach included research to review and analyse past and current BE and investment climate programmes which have managed to incorporate and implement gender sensitive results indicators. BERF assessed how these programmes have delivered reforms that have made a demonstrable impact on the lives of women and girls in terms of economic empowerment. Lessons from these programmes would underpin expert guidance to DFID Bangladesh on the most effective ways to mainstream gender into the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  Phase 2. Drafting for the Gender Mainstreaming Strategy component of BERF’s support is scheduled to begin by early 2017.

The review of the available evidence from the Donor Committee on Enterprise Development Business Environment Working Group on Gender, the World Bank, the OECD, the UN, other development partners and research institutions provided interesting insights, notwithstanding some significant evidence gaps. For example, according to evidence from the World Bank, only 17 % of firms globally are managed by women.  UN Women estimates that fewer women work for formal enterprises and the World Bank Group’s research found that women are paid less and do more unpaid care work than men. Further, 155 countries have at least one law that hinders women’s economic opportunities. It would appear that much more effort is required to ensure that business environment reform supports the economic empowerment for women.

The strongest evidence for how gender can be mainstreamed in BE and investment climate programmes was found in the World Bank publication Gender Dimensions of Business Environment Reform (Simani et al, 2010). The recently published Donor Committee on Enterprise Development report on Business Environment Reform and Gender which examines donors’ experience of gender sensitive business environment reform, provides an extremely useful addition to the evidence base. The Donor Committee on Enterprise Development report notes for example, that there is good evidence that interventions in childcare and women’s associations can improve outcomes for women.

While there is currently insufficient evidence on which reforms have the greatest impact for women, there is strong evidence that greater legal rights for women are associated with a wide range of positive social and economic outcomes, though causality is harder to establish, according to research from the World Bank Group.  Many of these rights are important to women as workers, entrepreneurs, and investors and would fall within the scope of business environment reform.

BERF’s Document Review report recommends the following general guidance for mainstreaming gender in  Business Environment /Investment Climate programmes:

  • Results should be disaggregated by gender for all Business Environment/Investment Climate programmes.
  • Ideally, a country-specific diagnostic should be conducted before programme activities are specified.
  • Diagnostics should include simple primary research to fill data gaps and to test whether regulations and official procedures are implemented as they were written or intended to be applied.
  • Where it not possible to conduct primary research, BERF recommends that a light touch diagnostic analysis should be done using existing sources of information.

Using a case study approach, BERF’s Evidence and Learning team was able to assist DFID Bangladesh by applying elements of the World Bank’s methodology to the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund 2, working through various programme components to illustrate how the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund  2 could be implemented in practice.