Event Highlight

Skills Workshop Offers Look Behind the Scenes at How World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law 2024 Report Is Produced

By Olivia Staudenmayer MIA ’24
Posted May 06 2024
Women, Business and the Law report
Photo: Lucas Hoeffel

On March 27, the Institute of Global Politics (IGP) hosted a skills workshop with the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law team, giving students the opportunity to dive deeper into the process of developing indicators. SIPA’s Economic and Political Development concentration and the Gender and Public Policy specialization co-sponsored the workshop.

Each year the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law (WBL) report strives to comprehensively measure the laws and regulations impacting women’s economic opportunity in countries around the world. At this skills workshop led by Tea Trumbic and SIPA alumnae Alexis Cheney MIA ’22 and Nayantara Vohra MPA ’21, participating students were able to explore the methodological background of the WBL 2024 report, with special attention to how new indicators, like those related to child care and safety, were added to the index.

Institute of Global Politics Skills Workshop
Photo Lucas Hoeffel

To put the report data into context, Trumbic elaborated on the meaning of the scores, which fall on a scale from 0 to 100. In the United States, for instance, the aggregate legal frameworks score is 85/100 overall, which reflects that women in the main business city of New York have 85 percent of the legal rights of men. However, when only looking at the expert opinions, the score diminishes to 62.5/100. Trumbic said experts faulted the United States specifically in the indicators for parenthood and child care, suggesting that there might be a gap between laws on the books and their implementation.

While WBL focuses on general data — basing its analysis on an “average woman” — Trumbic said that the World Bank also “wanted it to be easy [to understand and] especially to see the provision that stops women from doing a certain thing.” She said the data represents a great chance to “give depth to the path for a country to give reform” and can be seen more generally as “a to-do list” for policymakers

Women, Business and the Law report
Photo: Lucas Hoeffel

Students enjoyed the chance to try out the methods and gauge how difficult it is to apply the report methodology to evaluating countries’ laws. In evaluating Finland’s law, for instance, does the law establish the provision of center-based child care services by the government for children between 0 and 3 years if the law mandates early childhood education when the child turns nine months? While the answer in this specific case was yes, such nuanced questions arise for every indicator. In general, WBL tries to identify consensus categories: Since child care is defined for an age range between 0 and 2 years, 11 months, in most countries, that range is used as the standard. But because countries do vary, the panelists said WBL is “thinking about giving partial credits”.

The workshop participants divided into groups and brainstormed the steps that could be involved in developing an indicator. The students came up with ideas such as doing a literature review, understanding the geographic scope of the indicators, consulting with topic experts, and comparing available primary and secondary data. All these steps are indeed represented in the methodology of WBL.

One important takeaway from the workshop was how methodological choices can impact indicator scores and therefore the variation of data between economies of different incomes.

For example, in the child care indicator, WBL team contemplated the extent to which social norms surrounding child care and family structures in different countries may impact the legal provision of center-based child care services. The WBL team emphasized the importance of developing indicators that are applicable across regions and income groups to mitigate potential bias and represent an accurate evaluation of the state of women’s legal rights worldwide.