Trickle-Down Gender at the International Monetary Fund: The Scope and Limits of Mainstreaming Gender in Financial Governance

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Elaine COBURN, Glendon Campus, York University, Canada
As feminist scholars have long documented, both International Monetary Fund (IMF or the Fund) and World Bank policies have differentially affected men and women. Yet, if the Bank has engaged in significant gender analysis for several decades, at the IMF, policy analysis informed by gender has been remarkable mostly for its absence. The near-total silence by the Fund on gender and women was broken, however, in a 2013 working paper on “Women, Work and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity”. Since then, the IMF has launched a major campaign around gender and the economy, asserting that gender equity is both a good in itself and necessary to economic growth and so economic well-being. As of September 2017, the Fund has published more than 1900 documents and videos specifically concerned about gender, while alerting the public to its sustained concerns for gender equity via its hashtag #IMFGender. Yet, this new, public commitment to foregrounding gender in economic analyses co-exists with ongoing, remarkable silences. Women and gender are almost totally absent from “flagship” Fund publications like the biannual World Economic Outlook reports, for instance, that describe the global economy and offer macroeconomic policy advice. This paper draws on a wide-ranging textual analysis of IMF publications to examine, first, the emergence of the IMF’s recent discourse “mainstreaming” concerns of gender and gender equity and second, the contradictions and limits of the IMF’s mainstreaming efforts within the Fund. Finally, I consider the specificities and more general lessons that this study suggests about efforts to centre gender in neoliberal financial governance institutions.