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The global gender gap is even worse than we thought

The global gender gap is even worse than we thought
[Photo: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash]

Turns out, even the bright spots in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap report aren’t so bright.

The report, released last month, analyzed 153 countries on their progress in gender parity assessing women’s economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The bleak headline? Global gender parity is 100 years away.

One area where women are advancing dramatically is in the area of education. There, the study found the gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, thanks to advancements in some developing countries. (In the U.S., No. 53 on the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 153 countries, women now make up a majority of the college-educated workforce.)

But Velina Stefanova Ratcheva, a research lead for the World Economic Forum, says the promising education statistics don’t tell the whole story. While more girls and women are attending school, they aren’t always opting to learn technical and engineering skills that could lead to greater economic opportunity. “Inequalities are hidden behind the attainment rates,” Ratcheva says.

She notes that there are some countries, notably Italy and India, where women are successfully finding their way into technical studies. And women who have gone through schooling are good candidates for retraining. “Once ignited” the passion for learning “doesn’t go away,” Ratcheva says. The World Economic Forum’s IT Skills Initiative, for example, aims to prepare some one billion workers for jobs that are less likely to be eliminated by automation and artificial intelligence.

The tension between workforce skills and technological advancement will be explored at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, taking place in Davos, Switzerland, this week. The theme of the gathering is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.”

Indeed, the report concluded that women overindex in jobs that are being automated. Women’s economic advancement is also hampered by what WEF calls an “insufficient care infrastructure,” which means that even if a woman is accepted into career retraining program, she may not be able to participate due to lack of adequate child or elder care.

Davos Dialogues, a series of editorial panels, videos, and news coverage, is produced in partnership with HCL Technologies.

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