Closing gender gaps makes good economic sense. Advancing the aim of women’s economic empowerment will require policy action across a wide range of areas, including increasing their participation in international trade. Although trade policies are not de jure discriminatory, they impact women and men differently due to dissimilar initial conditions.
Mapping the channels and interactions between trade and gender for women as workers, consumers, and business owners shows that: (i) trade impacts women workers differently to men in part because they are employed in different sectors — in OECD countries, more often in services; (ii) trade lowers prices for consumers, which particularly increases the purchasing power of more vulnerable groups, where women are disproportionately represented; and (iii) higher trade costs impede smaller businesses’ access to international markets more than large firms, which impacts women who tend to own and lead smaller businesses.
A framework is proposed for analysing the impacts of trade and trade policies on women that policy-makers can use in order to ensure that trade and trade policies in their country support women’s economic empowerment.