The number of years it will take to achieve gender parity has increased to 135, according to a new World Economic Forum report.
In the latest World Economic Forum Summit, industry leaders, NGOs, and politicians gathered in Davos for an Open Forum discussion debated the global prospects for gender equity. The event came on the heels of a recent World Economic Forum analysis estimating that closing the global gender gap will take 135 years if current trends continue. The time it will take to achieve gender parity has increased since the previous time it was measured.
Although considerable progress has been made in the areas of education and health, Open Forum panellists agreed that if we are to make real change, governments must prioritise political empowerment and economic opportunity.
“There was a great belief that if we close the health gaps, if we closed the education gaps, then naturally, the economic and political gaps would close — turns out there isn’t anything natural about it,” Laura Liswood, Secretary-General of the Council of Women World Leader,s told Davos attendees.
Affirmative action mechanisms have been useful in getting historically marginalized groups into governments and businesses. But, “they definitely have an upgrade problem,” said Liswood. “You can get them in, but for some reason, you can’t get them up [the ladder].”
Political Empowerment of Women
To make the future more gender-inclusive, it will be vital to ensure that there are enough women in leadership positions, particularly in politics. Despite this, women held 26% of the 35,500 parliament seats and 23% of the more than 3,400 ministerial positions in the 156 countries evaluated by the report.
The mayor of Davos, Philipp Wilhelm, told the Open Forum that he has always found it difficult to persuade women to enter politics. “But if you don’t give up, and if you look for women, you will find women who will candidate,” he said.
Affirmative action initiatives he pushed through in his Swiss municipality resulted in 16 women competing for council in recent elections, out of a total of 26 candidates.
However, as fellow panelist, poet, and outgoing curator of Oakland Hub, Samantha Akwei, said, “You can put a woman in a position of power, but that doesn’t equate to her having power.”
If we are to close the gender gap, women must not just enter politics, but policies and regulations must also alter.
Discriminatory laws include those governing maternity leave, which highlight women as caretakers and place a lower value on their job duties, as well as laws governing property ownership and inheritance rights, as well as laws governing safety and movement around the world.
“There are still over 100 countries that have some discriminatory laws in place around economic participation,” said Liswood. “From hours you can work to amount of weight you can lift, there are all kinds of examples that have subtle impacts.”
Improving economic opportunity and participation is a prerogative, agreed attendees.
Economic Participation by Women
With 11 percent of women’s professions at risk of becoming automated, authorities must adopt a targeted approach to reskilling women.
“We know economic empowerment for women globally helps to reinforce their status in a home. It reduces gender-based violence, it reduces unwanted pregnancies,” said Liswood.
Even within industries, though, income discrepancies have yet to be bridged. Many women’s economic conditions have worsened in recent years as a result of the suspension of caregiving and schooling systems during the epidemic, according to the panel.
In response, Akwei proposed a “smart economy” that promotes the kinds of soft talents that many women are taught from an early age. Experts also advocated for legislation that would encourage more young women to pursue STEM fields.
“We’ve now managed to get the girls into schools. But are we getting them into careers that have been traditionally considered male-centered ones?” Angela Oduor Lungati, executive director of Ushahidi Inc, asked the room.
From prejudice at a Swiss daycare to attempting to recruit more female entrepreneurs in Brazil, Open Forum attendees shared their own tales of attempting and failing to address gender-based discrimination, asking panellists how they could close the gender gaps they see on a daily basis.
Mentorship programmes and sponsorships, according to the panel, could help make these changes. However, as a global community, we can only get so far without a fundamental adjustment in mentality. They claim that a new perspective on women’s social and economic roles will benefit everyone.
“Gender equality is for all genders,” said Liswood. “Because if it’s unequal for some women, it’s unequal for some men, your institutions are unequal in some way.” She added that while privilege may vary depending on who you are, “we all need to get a better handle on gender parity issues — it’s not a zero-sum game.”