World Bank

The World Bank's women problem

April 2, 2012: 12:50 PM ET

If Dartmouth's Jim Yong Kim can't stand up to patriarchal attitudes on a tiny New Hampshire campus, what are his chances as World Bank president?

Jim Yong Kim

Dartmouth president and World Bank president U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim

By Colleen Leahey, reporter

FORTUNE -- What does college frat pledge hazing have to do with the World Bank? A whole lot more than you'd think.

The most recent issue of Rolling Stone includes a colorful, disturbing retelling of former Dartmouth fratboy Andrew Lohse's harrowing experience as a brother at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Filled with nausea-inducing anecdotes of pledges ingesting and clothing one another in vomit, the profile's sensationalism upstages the role of the man behind the team Lohse reported the hazing to: Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim.

Kim is the recipient of the coveted U.S. nomination for World Bank president. An anthropologist, physician, co-founder of NGO Partners in Health, and former director of the Department of H.I.V./AIDS at the World Health Organization, Kim certainly boasts an impressive resume. But at Dartmouth -- and in his recently published vision for the future of the World Bank -- he seems to have forgotten one very important element: women.

According to the Rolling Stone story, Kim's predecessor at Dartmouth, James Wright, faced immense criticism from alumni and students when, hoping to calm Fraternity Row, he pushed for a coed Greek system in 1998. A year later, Wright waved a white flag and implemented softer reforms. Kim met with Dartmouth alumni shortly after taking office in 2009. A fan of the Greek system, he "reassured them he had no intention of overhauling the fraternities," even though their reputation of hazing and sexual assault was no secret.

His forgiving attitude then raises the question: If Kim can't stand up to fraternal culture on a tiny New Hampshire campus, how can he stand up to patriarchal culture on a global stage?

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Reuters blogger Felix Salmon scraped at the PR nightmare Kim faces after ignoring the sexual abuse on Dartmouth's Frat Row. But Kim's unclear stance on women's issues just might go deeper. On Wednesday, Kim called for an inclusive World Bank in a Financial Times op-ed; there was not one mention of gender.

Women make up 40% of the world's labor force, yet they only hold 1% of the world's wealth. And, according to the World Bank, eliminating barriers for women increases output per worker by 3% to 25% across a range of countries. In 2008, Goldman Sachs analysts cited that a 1 percentage point increase in female education raises the average level of GDP by 0.37 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points on average. Put simply, there's huge opportunity in promoting women's economic development. More

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