The fight for gender equality: present but insufficient


By Chiara Corazza, Managing Director of Women's Forum


2017 has been a momentous year for gender equality. Around the world, we have witness strong movements that called for better gender parity, protection of women’s rights. I am glad to see this progress, but we must keep in mind that their impact is still modest.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2017 the average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at 68.0%. Women are still underrepresented across major aspects. In the economy, women represent 50% of the world’s working age population but generate only 37% of GDP. Women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have increased from 24 to 32 in the last 3 years. However this is still less than 5%. I am pleased to see that France is champion of the G7 and G20 countries for the presence of women on the boards of directors and that gender equality is one of the great causes of the current five-year period. Gender pay gap continues to be a pressing problem for OECD countries. Despite many laws imposed in several countries, women earn on average 45% lesser than their male counterparts. Women in Iceland earn 72.7% of their male counterparts as of 2017. In France, women earn 73.9% of their male counterparts while it’s 70.3% in Singapore. In India, the percentage of female CEO is 6% and 1% only in France.

Similar in politics, in 2017 women constitute 23.3% of political representation. The number of women in executive government and in parliament worldwide has shown little improvement towards gender equality. There are currently only 11 women as head of state and head of government in the world with only 51 women preside over Houses of Parliament. Only 26 women serve as Mayors of 300 of the metropolises around the world. We must recognize women responsible for large city who not only manage but bring added value to these regions such as Valérie Pécress as the President of the Ile-de-France region, Anne Hidalgo for C40 Initiative for climate change, Karin Wanngard of Stockholm, Patricia de Lille of Cape Town and Yuriko Koike of Tokyo who have all added to the call for women’s empowerment and opened the doors for more women in local politics.

The situation is similar for women in STEM. Today, only 28% of all the world’s researches are women. OECD’s study shows that boys are twice likely as girls to expect to work as engineers, scientists or architects by age 15-proving the need for better pipelines in science. Women are scarce in scientific research and development. Averaged across regions, women accounted for less than a third (28.4%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2013, specifically Central Asia (47.1%), Latin American and the Caribbean (44.3%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.9%), and the Arab States (36.8%) are regions in which women represent over a third of the R&D workforce. Additionally, women are also less likely to enter, more likely to leave tech-Intensive Business Role. Women who start out in business roles in tech-intensive industries leave for other industries at high rates—53% of women, compared to 31% of men. While artificial intelligence is on the rise and is driving force for the for our future, there is a risk of replicating gender bias in artificial intelligence as the algorithm is 99% controlled by men.

As we look at these numbers, they might be overwhelming but they are the motivations for us to take action. We need to change this because when we make progress for women, we make life better for everybody. We could add 240 million to the global labour force – generating as much as $12 trillion to annual global GDP growth in 2025  (which means an additional $2.1 trillion to Western Europe’s GDP). Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation according to McKinsey’s report “Delivering through Diversity.” In observing women’s leadership styles, important commonalities emerge. Where men and women seem to be equally oriented towards business results, women’s bottom lines extend beyond financials. They are driven by making a positive impact (as seen also in the 2017 Women’s Forum Rising Talents Survey) on their employees, communities and societies. This leadership perspective is a different kind of gender gap. It presents us with a significant opportunity to bridge divides across our societies.

Government around the world have already engaged and committed more to this fight against gender inequality. 2018 started with the good news from Iceland as the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women in the same job. Just a few days ago, Canada also released the 2018 federal budget that focus on narrowing pay gap, extending parental leave and supporting female entrepreneurs. These efforts are to be applauded as they create the momentum for collective actions that accelerate for impact in gender equality. At the Women’s Forum, we are convening in Canada and Singapore in 2018 for the first time to build bridges, create platform to discuss on global issues through gendered perspectives. We need meaningful conversations, at all levels, to exchange best practices, ideas and understanding on how we can work together on a more effective basis. Only then, concrete results will be made for the good of women and men, for gender equality.