Global Gender Equality: We’re Not There Yet

As the captains of industry gather for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) symposium in Davos, Switzerland, it’s worth noting the parallels between that assembly and the WEF’s annual Global Gender Gap report. The WEF itself notes that less than one in five attendees at the Forum this week will be female (see Who are the women of Davos 2016?), up just 2% from two years ago.

GGG-2015-chartSo it is with the Global Gender Gap analysis. The 10th annual analysis was published in November, and the news release announcing the publication noted that women’s economic progress has “stalled markedly” over the past five years. In fact, the report’s authors note that, at the present rate of progress, it will be 118 (!!) years before we see economic parity between women and men – even though there’s been significant progress in terms of health and education. Political parity (more women in elected and appointed positions in the public sector) is even further away.

GGG2015-toptenThere’s been little change at the top over the past decade, with Nordic countries dominating the list. The top five countries: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Ireland. At the bottom of the list of 145 countries analyzed: Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Chad, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the inaugural effort in 2005, the top countries (from among the 58 included that year) were: Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland.

To learn more, see how your country stands, and download the report and infographics, visit The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 web portal.

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Reflections on Building a Sustainable Women’s Enterprise Ecosystem

In November, I attended and spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship‘s pre-conference women’s enterprise policy day. My 25-minute presentation was entitled, “Building a Women’s Enterprise Movement That Will Stand the Test of Time: Lessons From the U.S.‘” It aimed to reflect on the recent silver anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, to share lessons learned from the U.S. experience, and to offer observations of the common elements that bolster and strengthen a healthy and vibrant women’s enterprise ecosystem – which could be adapted for a variety of political systems and development contexts.

Here, then, is a Slideshare Slidecast of the presentation, which you can watch and listen to as you munch on your lunch. Or, fellow womenablers, feel free to download it and play it at your next women’s business organization member gathering or networking event to fuel further discussion about what ideas you might take forward in your own community. Go forth and multiply!

Charting Trends in Gender Equality

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published its Global Gender Gap report – an accounting of the relative position of women relative to men in 136 economies along four dimensions: 1) health and survival; 2) educational attainment; 3) economic participation; and 4) political empowerment.

male-female-symbolsAnd, again, the Nordic economies top the list. Leading the way is Iceland – ranked at #1 for the 5th straight year – followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. The Philippines rounds out the top five, jumping up from 8th position last year and knocking Ireland out of the top five.

At the other end of the list are: Yemen, ranked 136th out of 136 economies; Pakistan; Chad; Syria; and Mauritania.

More interesting than the current rankings, perhaps, are the changes over time, since the analysis is now in its eighth year. First off, here are the stalwart eight – the countries that have attained a top ten ranking in all eight years:

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Sweden

Secondly, there are five countries of note, who could be said to make up the “most improved” list. They are:

  •  Switzerland, ranked 26 in 2006 and 9 in 2013
  • Nicaragua, which has risen from a ranking of 62 in 2006 to 10th place this year
  • Ecuador, up from 82 to 25
  • Bolivia, up from 87 to 27
  • Malawi, ranked 81 in 2006 and 39 this year

Where does your country rank on this list? CLICK HERE to find out!

The UK’s Power Women

The Womenabler has long been a fan of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – we download and listen to many a show on our long womenabling flights around the globe. Last year, Woman’s Hour followed the trials and tribulations of three women entrepreneurs, pairing them up with mentors and discussing their entrepreneurial growth pains at regular intervals during the year. It was fascinating, illuminating and – we would guess – very inspirational for listeners thinking of starting and growing their own businesses.

womenshourlistpicThis year, they’ve set a new high bar – announcing a Power List of the 100 most powerful women in the UK. The build-up to the announcement was interesting to listen to, as they highlighted the advancement – or lack thereof – of women in business, politics, education, science and sport. It was a thoughtful, open process and the list is an interesting mix of the elite and the street-smart. Of course, #1 on the list is Queen Elizabeth, and many of the others in the ranked top-twenty lists are Dames and Right Honorables (position defines clout, in the UK and elsewhere). However, the list also includes such built-it-not-born-into-it women as singer Adele, noted architect Zaha Hadid, author JK Rowling, and a variety of women in sport, business, politics and civil society.

It’s a wonderful mix of women from a variety of walks of life, and generations, but some have commented that it’s not a very ethnically diverse list and that there were political and face-saving motivations for embarking upon this quest. But then, the halls of power are still relatively homogenous. By our eye, this women’s power list is much more diverse on so many levels than a gender-blind power list would be. And, whatever the motivations may have been, it’s a wonderful window on the world of women’s influence in the United Kingdom, a good conversation-starter about who may be missing from the list, and a feather in the cap of a fine radio program that, in our view, deserves more than a moment in the spotlight.

Check out the Woman’s Hour Power List, the stories behind how the list was chosen, and some of the commentary following the announcement of the list – including the chagrin of some that the Duchess of Cambridge was not included in the list.

Well done, Woman’s Hour!

New WEF Global Gender Gap Report Shows Both Progress & Persistent Gaps

For the seventh year running, the World Economic Forum has published its Global Gender Gap Report, taking a look at 135 world economies and measuring the extent of gender equality (or inequality) in four main areas:

  1. health and survival
  2. educational attainment
  3. economic participation
  4. political empowerment

As we and others have oft lamented, it’s a shame that economic participation doesn’t include any entrepreneurship measures – but there are a lack of consistent, comparable data measuring the number of women-owned firms in countries around the world. Economic participation remains an area with persistent gender gaps. And political empowerment remains the area with the consistently widest gender gap.

Be that as it may, the 2012 report again shows the continuing dominance of the Nordic countries in gender equality across these measures. Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have all ranked in the top ten in all seven years of the report – with Iceland topping the list since 2009.

Three other countries have made it to the top ten in all seven years of the report as well: Ireland, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Rounding out the top ten are Nicaragua and Switzerland, both well improved from their 2006 rankings of 62 and 26, respectively.

Given that there is now a 7-year trend to examine, it’s interesting to note where there have been significant improvements. In addition to the remarkable progress in Nicaragua, several African countries have made great leaps forward:

  • Madagascar, which has advanced from 84 to 58 on the list due to improvements in the political empowerment of women,
  • Malawi, which has lept from 81 to 36 due to improvements in economic participation, and
  • Uganda, which has advanced from a ranking of 50 to 28 over the past seven years on the heels of advancements in health and survival.

At the other end of the spectrum, there has been some backsliding in some countries, most notably in eastern Europe, where:

  • Croatia has fallen from a ranking of 16 to 49, due mainly to a decline in political empowerment,
  • Macedonia has slipped from 28 to 61, with declines in economic participation and political empowerment, and
  • Moldova has declined from a ranking of 17 to 45 as a result of slippages in political empowerment, economic participation and educational attainment.

And, as we’ve seen in every year of the report’s publication, there are some countries in which persistent gender gaps exist in more than one area. Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria and Saudi Arabia have remained at the bottom of the list since 2006, when 115 countries were evaluated and ranked. As has been mentioned by more than one political and social commentator, the Arab Spring has most certainly not resulted in any pervasive progress for women in the MENA region.

On This President’s Day We Ask, “Where are the Women?”

We’ve heard the “where are the women” phrase lately, as a recent US congressional hearing on women’s health featured a witness panel that was 100% male. And, as today is President’s Day in the US, it is a good time to point out that increasing the diversity of voices at the table (Congressional witness tables included) often starts at the top. And, in most countries around the world, those political leadership voices are male.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the most recently elected female head of state


Not everywhere, however. Currently, there are 27 female heads of state, according to guide2womenleaders.com. (Here is a list of them.) This represents 14% of the leaders of the 193 countries represented in the United Nations. Not nearly enough, wouldn’t you agree?

Indeed, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports point out that, while gender parity in health and education have improved in recent years and are near parity in many countries, political and economic equality both still have a long way to go.

Where are the women political leaders? The most recent Global Gender Gap report (issued in October of last year) lists the following ten countries as those with the closest political parity between women and men:

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Spain
  6. Ireland
  7. Sri Lanka
  8. New Zealand
  9. South Africa
  10. Denmark

How does your country rate on political parity for women, as well as economic, education and health? Check out the 2011 Global Gender Gap report to find out.

Finally, good women, the power lies with us. Support your female candidates for office with your volunteer time AND your money … or run for office yourself! The world needs more women in positions of political and economic power.