Closing the gender gap

World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2020

At the dawn of the 2020s, building fairer and more inclusive economies must be the goal of global, national and industry leaders. To get there, instilling gender parity across education, health, politics and across all forms of economic participation will be critical. Over the past 14 years the Global Gender Gap Index included in this report has served as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics. Through this annual yardstick, stakeholders within each country are able to set priorities relevant in each specific economic, political and cultural context. This year’s report highlights the growing urgency for action. Without the equal inclusion of half of the world’s talent, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all of society, grow our economies for greater shared prosperity or achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalised world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality.

Fortunately, the pathways to accelerating gender parity have also become more evident. Companies must treat people with dignity and respect and offer equal opportunities to all members of the society, leveraging gender diversity and investing in all of their talent through ongoing upskilling and reskilling. Governments must create policies that provide talent development, integration and deployment opportunities for all genders, diversify the leadership pool and provide support to families and caregivers, in both youthful and ageing societies alike. Business and government must work together on creating a new economic and social narrative for action and on coordinating and speeding up the process of change.

Key Findings

Global average is increasing
Globally, the average (population-weighted) distance completed to parity is at 68.6%, which is a further improvement since last edition. To date, there is still a 31.4% average gender gap that remains to be closed globally. The positive increase in the average global score translates into several countries advancing towards gender parity (although often at a slow pace): 101 of the 149 countries covered both this year and last year have increased their scores.

Australia Ranked: 43/153, score: 0.731, rank change: -5

Political Empowerment gap remains the largest
Across the four subindexes, on average, the largest gender disparity is—once again—the Political Empowerment gap. Despite being the most improved dimension this year (driving the overall positive performance) only 24.7% of the global Political Empowerment gap has been closed in 2020.

108 countries of the 149 covered in both current and last year’s editions have improved their overall scores, driven mainly by a significant increase in the number of women in parliaments compared to the last assessment. Nonetheless, to date only 25% of these 35,127 global seats are occupied by women and only 21% of the 3,343 ministers are women; and in some countries, women are not represented at all. In 85 of the 153 countries covered by this report there has never been a female head of state.

Australia Ranked: 57/153, 0.231

Only a handful of countries approach parity on Economic Participation
The second-largest gap is on Economic Participation and Opportunity; 57.8% of this gap has been closed so far, which represents a slight step back since last year. The number of women in senior roles within the Economic Participation and Opportunity dimension has increased. Globally, 36% of senior private sector’s managers and public sector’s officials are women (about 2% higher than the figure reported last year). Despite this progress, the gap to close on this aspect remains substantial as only a handful of countries are approaching parity.

Australia Ranked: 49/153, score: 0.722

Labour market participation is stalling
In contrast to the slow but positive progress in terms of leadership positions, women’s participation in the labour market is stalling and financial disparities are slightly larger (on average), explaining the step back registered by the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex this year. On average, only 55% of adult women are in the labour market, versus 78% of men, while over 40% of the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of a woman to that of a man in a similar position) and over 50% of the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) are still to be bridged. Further, in many countries, women are significantly disadvantaged in accessing credit, land or financial products, which prevents opportunities for them to start a company or make a living by managing assets.

Educational Attainment gaps are near parity
Educational Attainment gaps are relatively small on average but there are still countries where investment in women’s talent is insufficient. While in 35 countries gender parity in education has been achieved, a few developing countries have yet to close over 20% of the gaps. Ten percent of girls aged 15–24 in the world are illiterate, with a high concentration in developing countries. Further, in these countries, education attainment is low for both girls and boys, which calls for greater investment to develop human capital in general.

Even in countries where education attainment is relatively high, women’s skills are not always in line with those required to succeed in the professions of the future. In addition, they encounter barriers to employment in the most dynamic and in-demand occupations. Based on data from the LinkedIn platform, women are underrepresented in six of the eight micro-clusters with the highest employment growth rate (people and culture, content production, marketing, sales, specialised project managers, data and AI, engineering and cloud computing). Further, comparing where women are currently employed with the skills they possess, it turns out that there are some occupations where women are under-utilised even if they have the needed skills. Women could further contribute to many of them— including some high-tech and managerial roles—if current barriers could be addressed.

Australia Ranked: 1/153 (shared with top 55), score: 1.000

A century before we see the global gender gap close
Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap. The second area where gender gaps will take longest to close is Political Empowerment. This year’s evolution speeds up the pace of progress towards parity, yet it will still take 94.5 years—even at this faster rate—to close the gender gap. Third, the Educational Attainment gender gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, mainly thanks to advancements in some developing countries. The Health and Survival gender gap remains virtually unchanged since last year. Globally, the time to fully close this gap remains undefined, while gender parity has been already fully achieved in 40 countries among the 153 covered by this edition of the report.

This is an extract from the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 published by World Economic Forum