Progress on gender equality is slowing down. At the current rate of change, it is going to take 108 years to close the Global Gender Gap, which now stands at 68 percent. That adds eight years to the 2017 estimate, according to the WEF’s annual report.
The ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ was first published in 2006 and intended as a framework for measuring gender disparities in countries across the world. It is divided into four sub-indexes: Health and Survival, Educational Attainment, Economic Participation and Opportunity, and Political Empowerment. In the 2018 edition, five new countries have been included – Iraq, Oman, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Togo – bringing the total up to 149.
Since 2006, the overall gender gap has narrowed by 3.6 percent. In 2018, there was only a 0.03 percent reduction, revealing “extremely slow progress”, according to the report. Yet, the general trend remains positive: Out of the 144 countries that were covered in both 2017 and 2018, 89 have closed their gender gap at least marginally. The report states: “Although progress continues to proceed at a very slow pace ... the fact that most countries are moving toward greater gender parity is encouraging and rewards the efforts of all policy-makers and practitioners across the world that work to achieve the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equality”.
MIND THE GAP
Out of the sub-indexes, the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap is the one that will take the longest to close completely: An estimated 202 years. The glass ceiling persists, with women still being overlooked for managerial or senior official roles. Where data is available, it reveals that only a third (34 percent) of global managers are women. Despite the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there’s also a significant disparity among AI professionals, with only 23 percent female – resulting in a yet-to-be-closed gender gap of 70 percent. The gender gap in Political Empowerment now requires 107 years to be closed, reflecting the low numbers of women serving in all political roles and particularly as heads of state. Only 18 percent of government ministers are women and, in six of the 149 countries, there are no women holding ministerial positions at all. The report states: “Most women in head-of-state positions have been elected in the past decade. Despite these recent developments, there are still just 17 women head[s] of state or prime ministers across the 149 countries in 2018, including the prime minister of Romania who was elected this year.”
But the good news is that the Educational Attainment gender gap stands at just five percent on average and can be closed in 14 years, based on current trends, while the Health and Survival gap can be considered “virtually closed in most countries”.
WHO'S IN THE TOP 10
Iceland tops the index for the 10th year in a row, having closed more than 85 percent of its overall gender gap. The top four countries are all Nordic nations, with Norway, Sweden and Finland coming second, third and fourth, respectively. And there’s a new entry in the top 10 this year – Namibia has climbed three places to number 10, making it the second sub-Saharan African country among the leading nations (Rwanda is sixth). In the first Global Gender Gap Index (2006), Namibia ranked 38th. It has since improved by more than 10 percent, closing 79 percent of its overall gender gap. Namibia’s Health and Survival gap has been closed since 2013 and it ranks fifth for Political Empowerment, with a boost in the number of women in parliament. Another success story is Nicaragua, which has overtaken Rwanda to claim fifth place this year – climbing all the way from 62nd in 2006. For the seventh year in a row, it has the narrowest gender gap in the Latin America and Caribbean region, having closed a little more than 80 percent.
Article originally appeared in African Independent's WEF Special Edition 2019.