Gender equality: there could still be a long road ahead of us…

Where do we stand with regard to global gender equality? The ninth edition of The Global Gender Gap Report, produced by the World Economic Forum, shows that while there has been a marked improvement in the areas of health and education, economic and political participation are lagging behind.

Since 2006, only a 4% improvement in terms of equality in the workplace has been recorded worldwide. If the figures continue to increase at this rate, we will have to wait until 2095, in other words 81 years, to close the gender gap! Today, economic participation and opportunities for women amount to only 60% of those of men, while it was 56% nine years ago. However, according to Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum and the main author of the report, even though progress seems rather slow, it is due in part to the increasing number of women who are employed.

In politics, the numbers of female parliamentarians and ministers have increased by 26% and 50% respectively in nine years. A more appreciable increase than for employment but for all that there are still marked inequalities, since only 21% of political decision makers in the world are women.

Health and education are the two areas where many countries have already closed the gap. With regard to health, 35 countries have in fact totally eliminated gender disparity, and equality has reached 96% globally. In education, there are 25 countries which have closed the gap between the sexes and equality is at 94%. Despite these good scores, the trend has reversed in some parts of the world. Indeed, compared to nine years ago, more than 40% of the countries studied have a greater gap in terms of health, and 30% in terms of education.

Nordic countries have the most equal societies in the world

Of the 142 countries studied, five countries in Northern Europe are role models when it comes to their ability to achieve equality. Iceland (1st), Finland (2nd), Norway (3rd), Sweden (4th) and Denmark (5th) are the highest ranked countries. As for the rest of the top 10, Nicaragua landed 6th place, Rwanda, entering the index for the first time, 7th place, Ireland 8th, the Philippines 9th and Belgium 10th. Other western countries are lower in the rankings. Germany is in 12th position, New Zealand 13th, France 16th, Canada 19th, the United States 20th, Australia 24th and Britain 26th. Amongst BRICS countries, South Africa (18th) received the highest ranking, followed by Brazil (71st), Russia (75th), China (87th) and India (114th).

Guatemala made the largest improvements in terms of economic participation, Nepal in education, Angola in health and Nicaragua with respect to political empowerment. The biggest increases in the number of women entering the labor market were recorded in Nepal, Botswana and Nigeria. Kuwait, Luxembourg and Singapore made the greatest gains in income for women. More senior roles (legislators, senior officials and managers) have been given to women in France, Madagascar and Honduras, and also expert positions (professional and technical workers), in Bulgaria, Ecuador and Honduras.
On the other hand, countries which have seen the greatest declines are Jordan in the area of economic participation, Angola in education levels, India in health and Botswana in politics.

Creating a virtuous cycle

For Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, achieving gender equality is an absolute necessity, as a matter of justice as much as for economic reasons. In his opinion, only those economies which have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and be able to prosper.

In concluding their report, the authors noted the benefits of gender equality. Indeed, if women are healthy and educated this influences the good health and education of their children. Their involvement in political decision-making means their decisions reach a greater number of citizens. And companies which recruit and retain women, and offer them senior roles, outperform others that do not. All of this allows you to create a virtuous cycle and so achieve and maintain equality between the sexes.

Florence Risueño Faure

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