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.

Economic Inequality Costing Women Trillions

A report just out from UK’s ActionAid estimates the cost of inequality in women’s work around the globe, and it is truly staggering. The report, Close the gap! The cost of inequality in women’s work, released during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, puts the gender wage and employment gap at $16.9 trillion USD – including $9.1 trillion for women in developing economies and $7.8 trillion for women in developed economies. The gap takes into account both lower levels of women’s labor force participation and wages.Income differences between men and women

The report’s publication has been noted in a recent article in The Guardian and in an ActionAid-authored article on Thomson-Reuters. Let’s see if the gauntlet thrown down by the report’s call to action section are picked up by their intended audiences: not just economic policy-makers but businesses, civil society organizations and development institutions. Personally, while I’m not holding my breath, the publication of a quantifiable estimate of the financial cost to women of economic inequality is a significant step forward.

The 2014 GGG: Improving With Age

For the ninth straight year, the World Economic Forum has published its Global Gender Gap Report, an analysis of the relative parity of women and men in 142 countries on four important dimensions: health and survival, education, economic empowerment and political participation.
As in previous years, countries in the Nordic region top the list as having the highest degree of gender equality, even though there’s room for improvement in all countries. Here’s the list of the top ten countries this year, along with their scores (which theoretically can range from 0 for complete inequality to 1 for complete equality):

1.    Iceland (0.86)
2.    Finland (0.85)
3.    Norway (0.84)
4.    Sweden (0.82)
5.    Denmark (0.80)
6.    Nicaragua (0.79)
7.    Rwanda (0.79)
8.    Ireland (0.79)
9.    Philippines (0.78)
10.    Belgium (0.78)

At the bottom of the list, with the least amount of gender equality, are:

142.    Yemen (.51)
141.    Pakistan (.55)
140.    Chad (.58)
139.    Syria (.58)
138.    Mail (.58)
137.    Iran (.58)
136.    Cote d’Ivoire (.59)
135.    Lebanon (.59)
134.    Jordan (.60)
133.    Morocco (.60)

What’s most interesting, however, is the fact that 111 countries have been tracked for all nine years, so there’s now a growing body of knowledge with respect to areas of improvement and decline. Some of the most noteworthy trends include:

  • Among the four pillars of the GGG, the gender gap is narrowest in the area of health and survival, with a 0.96 rating globally. While 35 countries have closed this gap entirely, this is the only subindex in which gender parity has declined over the nine years of analysis. At the other end of the gender gap spectrum, the ratio of the political empowerment of women compared to that of men remains at just 0.21 among the 111 nations tracked over the past nine years. This pillar, however, has seen the most improvement since 2006.
  • Regionally, Latin America has seen the largest absolute reduction in their overall gender gap, with 4.2% of their gap narrowed since 2006. At the other end of the spectrum, the Asia-Pacific region is the only region in which the gender gap has widened, by 3.2%.
  • Between 2006 and 2014, 105  of 111 countries have made progress overall, while just six countries have regressed relative to their starting point. The countries that have seen the largest reductions in their gender gaps, relative to where they were ranked in 2006, are: Nicaragua, Nepal, France, Ecuador, and Saudi Arabia.

The six countries that have seen a worsening of their gender gaps in the areas of health, education, economic participation and political empowerment since 2006 are: Croatia, Jordan, Macedonia, Mali, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.

With nearly a decade’s worth of data made public through these reports, what are the lessons we can learn? First and foremost, while there is indeed a vast difference in gender equality between #1 Iceland and #142 Yemen, there is room for improvement in every economy – especially with respect to political inclusion and economic empowerment. While health and education have seen tremendous gains over the past decade, women’s voices are frequently absent from political and economic decision-making – to the detriment of those county’s economic health and social stability.

Secondly, parity does not necessarily equal empowerment. Closing gender gaps, while an important indicator of overall well-being, should not lead us to think that our womenabling work is done. Improving the overall level of health, education, political inclusion and economic empowerment for both women and men is important as well.

Finally, having nearly a decade’s worth of data increases our level of insight and analysis and shows us that, while there has been improvement in nearly every country since 2006, there has been some decline – both within some individual countries and regionally in the Asia-Pacific region. Having information such as this on a consistent and detailed basis can inform policymaking and fuel advocacy. OK, womenablers, on your mark, set, go!

Visit to learn more, see where your country ranks, and to download the complete report. And here’s a brief 2-minute video explaining the impetus behind the GGG initiative.

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!

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.