International trade is not gender neutral. Due to differences in representation in the economy as well as due to various social inequalities, women and men are affected differently by international trade and trade policy. This report describes some of these differences for men and women as employees, entrepreneurs and consumers in high and middle income countries and discusses possible ways for trade policy to take these into account.

More men than women have jobs supported by trade. There are also indications of larger wage differences in trading sectors and companies than in the economy in general. Businesses owned or led by men are much more likely to engage in international trade than those owned or led by women.

These insights have created a demand for a more gender-responsive trade policy. Depending on the specific challenge at hand, different policies or policy combinations will be appropriate for countries and for regions.

Policy initiatives on multilateral, regional and unilateral levels are suggested to allow trade policy to take gender equality into account. These include introducing a requirement of gender impact analysis for potential new WTO agreements, including gender as standard content in the Trade Policy Review Mechanism, reaching a possible plurilateral agreement on trade and gender, adding gender content to additional sections of free trade agreements, unilaterally initiating trade policy reform and ensuring male and female participation in trade promotion activities. Supported by appropriate national policies and private initiatives, such trade policy could then facilitate international trade flows that contribute to inclusive and sustainable growth.

This short report, focusing primarily on trade policy and the economic dimension of gender equality, is based on the findings in the previous report Trade and gender gaps – can trade policy contribute to gender equal value chains?.