McKinsey Global Institute: Women's Equality Would Unleash Massive Growth

Gender equality is good business.

When discussing the importance of women's equality, there are two numbers to keep in mind, says James Manyika, the director of the McKinsey Global Institute: $28 trillion and $12 trillion.

The first number is the amount we'd add to the global economy if someone could instantly create gender parity, Manyika told Andrew McAfee, an MIT research scientist, in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Admittedly, said Manyika, complete gender equality (including everything from creating the same job prospects for both sexes, to erasing wage inequalities, to opening up access to capital and infrastructure) is easier named than achieved, which makes the second figure -- $12 trillion -- all the more interesting.

According to Manyika, if every country in the world were to elevate its policies to match the best-performing country in its region, the global economy would gain an additional $12 trillion. (The report divides the world into 10 regions.)

"And the interesting thing about that is, it’s taking something that’s happening in a real country already, in a particular cultural geographic context,” said Manyika. "What you often hear is, 'Well, this region, or this culture, or this geography is different. So this 'neighborhood analysis' says, 'Get to the best-performing country in that region.’ What’s that number? That’s 12 trillion."

In Latin America, for instance, the best-performing country in terms of gender equality is Chile, Manyika explained. "Chile does a better job than everybody else in that neighborhood, so what if you got the others [in Latin America] to do the same thing?"

"I think that's more achievable [than the $28 trillion]," he said, "because there's an existence proof for it."

The Institute suggested 75 concrete actions to help unlock that growth, like paying female students' school fees, which encourages them to continue their education, or setting explicit diversity goals and flexible work policies within companies. Remarkably, two-thirds of the suggestions can be enacted entirely by the private sector, with no government involvement.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Manyika said.