A policy memo for CGD on a law to help US multinationals combat inequality in the workplace overseas.
A number of countries worldwide have laws that specifically discriminate against women’s participation in the workforce, including bans on particular occupations, restrictions on opening bank accounts or taking jobs without a male family member’s authority, and restrictions on travel. Such discriminatory laws are associated with considerably lower female labor force participation and with negative consequences for economic growth and sustainable development. They also contradict globally accepted norms and values on gender equality in the workplace. The US legislation or executive action we propose would encourage US multinationals to mitigate the impact of local discriminatory legislation to the extent possible within the host country’s domestic laws by following a code of conduct regarding women’s employment, potentially limiting that obligation to the most discriminatory of countries. The proposed legislation is modeled on US anti-apartheid legislation (P.L. 99-440) that encouraged US firms to hire, train, and promote nonwhites in South Africa in the 1980s. Part of the legislation addresses the actions of the executive branch; this could also form a stand-alone executive order.