Fixing Women or Fixing the World? ‘Smart Economics’, Efficiency Approaches, and Gender Equality in Development


Chant, Sylvia, and Caroline Sweetman. 2012. “Fixing Women or Fixing the World? ‘Smart Economics’, Efficiency Approaches, and Gender Equality in Development.” Gender & Development 20 (3): 517–29. doi:10.1080/13552074.2012.731812.

Authors: Sylvia Chant, Caroline Sweetman


This article focuses on the current trend for investing in women and girls as ‘smart economics’, which is a direct descendant of the efficiency approach to women in development (WID) prevalent in the wake of the economic crisis in the 1980s. We highlight the dangers of conflating the empowerment of women as individuals with the feminist goal of removing the structural discrimination which women face as a gendered constituency, and consider the implications for feminists in development if they adopt smart economics-speak and work in coalition with individuals and organisations who have fundamentally different aims. This has attractions in strategic terms, but risks recreating the very problems gender and development seeks to transform.

Keywords: smart economics, efficiency, feminist economics, empowerment, gender equality, World Bank




Topics: Development, Economies, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Girls, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Financial Institutions, Political Economies

Year: 2012

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