This paper uses 1974 to 2001 panel data for 31 sub-Saharan African and 10 Arab countries and Arellano–Bond estimations to empirically assess the impact on growth of an important indicator associated with MDG 3; namely the ratio of 15–24-year-old literate females to males. Our findings indicate that gender inequalities in literacy have a statistically significant negative effect that is robust to changes in the specification. In addition, it seems that gender inequality has a stronger effect on growth in Arab countries. Interestingly, we find that the interaction between openness to trade and gender inequality has a positive impact. This result suggests that trade-induced growth may be accompanied by greater gender inequalities.