The 13th edition of the Global Gender Gap Index was published by the World Economic Forum Tuesday, showing that full equality between men and women remained elusive for many more decades to come.
The Davos, Switzerland-based organization comes to the sobering conclusion that despite recent progress in providing equal opportunities for both sexes, it would take another 108 years for the gender gap to close on a global scale.
In his preface to the report, the founder and executive chairman of WEF, Klaus Schwab, said however that it was critical that men and women participate on an equal footing in the current process of deep societal and economic transformation.
"More than ever, societies cannot afford to lose out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity to realize the promise of a more prosperous and human-centric future that well-governed innovation and technology can bring," he wrote.
The WEF has been trying to gauge gender-based disparities since 2006, when its first Gender Gap Index was published. This year, 149 countries were investigated across four themes, ranging from economic participation and opportunity to health and survival plus education and political empowerment. The aim of the ranking is to create global awareness of the challenges, and to show the opportunities created by reducing them.
• Globally, the average distance covered to parity is at 68.0 percent, which is a marginal improvement over last year. In other words, to date there is still a 32 percent average gender gap that remains to be closed. The directionally positive average trend registered this year is supported by improvements in 89 countries.
• As in previous years, the largest gender disparity remains in the sphere of political empowerment, with the gap still standing at 77.1 percent — the same level as last year. The economic participation gap is the second-largest at 41.9 percent, but has narrowed slightly over the year. In education and health the gaps haven't changed, and continue to stand at 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent respectively.
• When it comes to political and economic leadership, just 17 of the 149 countries covered that currently have women as heads of state. Just 18 percent of ministers and 24 percent of parliamentarians globally are women.
Similarly, women hold just 34 percent of managerial positions across the countries where data is available — and less than 7 percent in the four worst-performing countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan. At the same time, however, there is full parity on this indicator in five countries — including the Bahamas, Colombia and Jamaica — and in another 19 countries at least 40 percent of women are in managerial positions.
• In terms of broader economic power, gaps in control of financial assets and in time spent on unpaid tasks continue to prevail. Women have as much access to financial services as men in just 60 percent of the countries and to land ownership in just 42 percent. Also, among the 29 countries for which data are available, women on average spend twice as much time on housework and other unpaid activities than men.
• Although average progress on gender parity in education is relatively more advanced than in other aspects, there are still 44 countries where over 20 percent of women are illiterate. Similarly, near-parity in higher education enrolment rates often masks low participation of both men and women. Globally, just 39 percent of women and 34 percent of men are in college or university today. Most striking is the gender gap in the sphere of artificial intelligence skill — 23 percent are women compared with 78 percent men — which indicates disparity in the skills of the future may widen in the years to come.
Task of a century
According to WEF, which has also projected current trends into the future, it'll take 108 years on average to close the gender gaps in the countries investigated.
Read more: Woman power from Ghana to Iceland
Unsurprisingly, the most advanced country is a Nordic country — Iceland. It has closed over 85 percent of its overall gender gap. Norway comes second with a gender parity level of 83.5 percent, followed by Sweden and Finland, both at 82.2 percent.
More of a surprise is the fact that the top 10 features Nicaragua, in 5th place, two sub-Saharan African countries — Rwanda (6th) and Namibia (10th) — and the Philippines in 8th place. Germany is ranked 14th.