Gender parity five generations away though global elections offer hope, WEF report says

Middle East ranks last in World Economic Forum report, though it has seen marked strides over past 20 years in women's educational attainment

Globally, the gender gap has closed by 0.1 percentage points since last year. AFP
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While the world has closed the gender equality gap by almost 70 per cent, at the current pace it will take another 134 years to achieve full parity, though global elections offer some hope, the World Economic Forum said in a new report.

“Despite some bright spots, the slow and incremental gains highlighted in this year's Global Gender Gap Report underscore the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to achieving gender parity, particularly in economic and political spheres,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the WEF.

“We cannot wait until 2158 for parity. The time for decisive action is now.”

Globally, the gender gap has closed by 0.1 percentage points since last year, according to the report.

Women’s representation in the political sphere has increased at the federal and local level, though top-level positions remain largely inaccessible globally, the report said.

With more than 60 national elections this year and the largest percentage of the global population in history set to vote, representation could further improve.

The Middle East and North Africa ranked last out of eight global regions, with a score of 61.7 per cent, though the report noted that it has seen marked strides in women's educational attainment.

While labour force participation remains low, major progress has been made in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in recent years, the report said.

The UAE and Israel were the top regional performers, and the only Mena countries to break the top 100.

Workforce participation

While parity in women’s labour force participation has improved, regional differences remain.

“The slow progress that had been made in women being hired into leadership roles is now starting to erode from a peak seen in 2022,” said Sue Duke, vice president of global public policy and economic graph at LinkedIn.

“As the global economy has cooled, it is women that have been disproportionately hit, reinforcing the systemic issues that hold women back in the workplace.”

LinkedIn data has shown that women's workforce representation remains below men's in nearly every industry and economy, with women accounting for 42 per cent of the global workforce and about 32 per cent of senior leaders.

There has, however, been a significant rise in women's participation in Stem fields, particularly artificial intelligence engineering, which has more than doubled since 2016.

“We are reaching a pivotal moment as generative AI starts to impact the labour market with a recalibration of the skills employers value most,” Ms Duke said.

“Employers must ensure they apply a gender lens to their approach in upskilling to establish the future workplace in a fair and equitable way.”

The Global Gender Gap Report, first published in 2006, is the longest-standing index tracking progress on gender parity worldwide, presenting data and analysis of gender-based gaps in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 10:01 PM