By Geoff Gilliard
Over the last 50 years, women’s movements have become a powerful force in advocating for gender equality. But how powerful?
SFU political science professor S. Laurel Weldon has studied the impact of women’s movements around the globe and finds they have advanced women’s economic empowerment. They have led to more egalitarian workplace regulations, more equitable land rights, better access to financial institutions, expanded legal protections for domestic workers and protection from sexual harassment.
Weldon and her research team developed a new measure called the Feminist Mobilization Index that gives a more complete picture than ever before of feminist activism trends from 1975 to 2015 and across 126 countries. This research effectively demonstrates that women’s movements do contribute to closing the gap for gender inequality by improving women’s economic livelihoods.
“Our research shows that women’s movements over the last 50 years have become a guiding force for women’s economic empowerment, and strengthen democracies more broadly,” says Weldon. “Feminist mobilization is associated with reduced child marriage and changed attitudes about women in politics and violence against women.”
The project, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed social media from key campaigns related to women’s economic empowerment. Fieldwork in seven countries and traditional measures of transnational feminism gave the social media analysis context and nuance.