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Men and women will be equal in 100 years

Christian Fernsby |
The time it will take to close the gender gap narrowed to 99.5 years in 2019.

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Topics: MEN    WOMEN   

While an improvement on 2018 when the gap was calculated to take 108 years to close it still means parity between men and women across health, education, work and politics will take more than a lifetime to achieve.

This is the finding of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.

According to the report, this year’s improvement can largely be ascribed to a significant increase in the number of women in politics.

The political gender gap will take 95 years to close, compared to 107 years last year.

Worldwide in 2019, women now hold 25.2% of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1% and 19% respectively last year.

Politics, however, remains the area where least progress has been made to date.

With Educational Attainment and Health and Survival much closer to parity on 96.1% and 95.7% respectively, the other major battlefield is economic participation.

Here, the gap widened in 2019 to 57.8% closed from 58.1% closed in 2018.

Looking simply at the progress that has been made since 2006 when the World Economic Forum first began measuring the gender gap, this economic gender gap will take 257 years to close, compared to 202 years last year.

The report attributes the economic gender gap to a number of factors.

These include stubbornly low levels of women in managerial or leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income.

Women have been hit by a triple whammy: first, they are more highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation, for example, retail and white-collar clerical roles.

Second, not enough women are entering those professions often but not exclusively technology-driven where wage growth has been the most pronounced.

As a result, women in work too often find themselves in middle-low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Third, perennial factors such as lack of care infrastructure and lack of access to capital strongly limit women’s workforce opportunities.

Women spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available, and lack of access to capital prevents women from pursuing entrepreneurial activity, another key driver of income.

Possibly the greatest challenge preventing the economic gender gap from closing is women’s under-representation in emerging roles.

New analysis conducted in partnership with LinkedIn shows that women are, on average, heavily under-represented in most emerging professions.

This gap is most pronounced across our “cloud computing” job cluster where only 12% of all professionals are women.

The situation is hardly better in “engineering” (15%) and “Data and AI” (26%), however women do outnumber men in two fast-growing job clusters, “content production” and “people and culture”.

According to our data, this reality presents leaders intent on addressing the gender gap in the future with two key challenges.

The first and most obvious challenge is that more must be done to equip women with the skills to perform the most in-demand jobs.

Indeed, there is an economic cost of not doing so as skills shortages in these professions hold back economic growth.

The second is possibly more complex.

According to our data, even where women have the relevant in-demand skillset they are not always equally represented.

In data science, for example, 31% of those with the relevant skillset are women even though only 25% of roles are held by women.

Likewise, there is no gender gap in terms of skills when it comes to digital specialists, however only 41% of these jobs are performed by women.

These facts point to three key strategies that must be followed to hardwire gender equality into future workforces: to ensure women are equipped in the first place either through skilling or reskilling with disruptive technical skills; to follow-up by enhancing diverse hiring; and to create inclusive work cultures.

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