BEIRUT: Most of us won’t be there to witness the closure of the global gender gap in 99.5 years, as predicted by a World Economic Forum (WEF) report.
Over the past 14 years, the Global Gender Gap Index included in the report has served as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men in health, education, economy, and politics.
This year’s edition of the report benchmarks 153 countries and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across and within regional peers.
The analysis revolves around four themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.
“At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalized world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality,” the report said.
While the 2019 findings show an improvement in the 108 years in the 2018 index, it still means that it would take more than a lifetime for women to be on an equal footing with men across different areas.
The Swiss-based organization attributed this improvement to greater political representation for women.
“The Political Empowerment gender gap globally improves to a score of 24.7 percent, which is 1.8 percentage points higher than last year and represents the most significant improvement since 2006. On average, this dimension has improved by 0.75 points every year,” the report noted.
Politics, however, remains the area where the least progress has been made to date. According to WEF, it will take 95 years to close the inequality gap in political representation with the low number of women holding parliamentary seats and ministerial positions worldwide.
The second-largest gap is on economic participation and opportunity.
The reason behind this inequality is that women are persistently less present in the labor market than men. Further, gender gaps tend to widen together with seniority levels.
“Globally, 36 percent of senior private sector’s managers and public sector’s officials are women (about 2 percent higher than the figure reported last year),” WEF reported. “Despite this progress, the gap to close on this aspect remains substantial as only a handful of countries are approaching parity,” adding that the world will need 257 more years to achieve it fully.
WEF also emphasized that the presence of women on corporate boards or as top business leaders is very limited.
Similarly, females are not offered equal opportunities in terms of accessing credit, land or financial products – the fact that prevents them from starting their own companies. Without forgetting to mention “the disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities that women continue to carry compared to men almost everywhere.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the two remaining themes showed remarkable progress; closing the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps is more advanced now: “96.1 percent and 95.7 percent respectively of these gaps have been closed to date, both marginally improved since last year,” the report mentioned.
While in 35 countries gender parity in education has been achieved, it is expected to take just 12 years to attain it in all countries.
Women’s health and survival are also improving with 40 countries among the 153 covered by this edition surveyed having already fully achieved equality. The time to end this gap is yet to be defined.
Performance by region
Western Europe is once again the region where the gender gap is smallest (76.7 percent), placing it ahead of North America, which has closed 72.9 percent of its gap, Latin America and the Caribbean (72.1 percent), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (71.5 percent).
The regions that performed more poorly are East Asia and the Pacific region (68.5 percent) just ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa (68.0 percent), while South Asia has closed 66.1 percent of its gap and is ahead of the Middle East and North Africa (61.1 percent).
The MENA region, which scored lowest on the gender gap index, is expected to reach gender equality in approximately 150 years.
“For now, many women in the region continue to face limitations of basic rights, including for divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice, and freedom of movement,” WEF pointed out.
According to Professor Annie Tohme-Tabet, sociologist, anthropologist, and specialist in gender studies, the aforementioned is due to prevailing mentalities and ideologies as well as patriarchy.
“The social system in our region gives primary power and predominance to men in roles of political leadership, moral authority, and social privilege,” Tohme-Tabet told Annahar. “Also, on the economic level, men are still expected to be the breadwinners, while women remained primarily responsible for caring for the household.”
Iceland ranked by WEF as the most gender-equal country for the 11th consecutive year, followed by its Nordic neighbors, Norway, Finland, and Sweden.
Lebanon ranked number 145. Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen ranked lowest.
Roadmap for shaping a better future
Tohme-Tabet explained to Annahar that similar reports can contribute somehow to shaping mindsets and catalyzing action towards the achievement of gender equality.
“But this would never be enough,” she said. “To really win gender equality, new attitudes and laws are needed. Governments should give women fair representation and companies should treat all members of the society with dignity and respect and offer them equal opportunities.”
“Societal change is also key and it starts with education, at home, at school. Beyond legislation, our society needs to mobilize and redesign education systems for girls and boys. That’s how the future can be reinvented,” she added.
Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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