Despite feminist movements and increased publicity of the inequalities women face every day in the workplace, data from the World Bank are still inclined to imply that a gender gap exists in the corporate world, particularly in terms of wage and opportunities. Similarly, there are reasons to believe that there is a significant disparity between women and men even in high-level corporate positions. For example, only thirteen percent of the Fortune 500 companies are led by a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
It is alarming to think that even after almost 40 years of fighting against gender disparity, the aim of these movements has never truly been achieved, even in the workplace.
This article will detail how gender gap is present in multiple facets of the workplace, and talk more comprehensively of the Global Gender Report of 2020 by the World Economic Forum.
What is gender gap?
In a nutshell, gender gap is the discrepancy between women and men as reflected in areas like society, politics, intellect, culture, and even economic attainments and attitudes. The World Economic Forum details a Global Gender Gap Index that aims to measure gender gap in four key areas: health, education, economics and politics. In the latest Global Gender Gap Report, which was published on December 16, 2019, the findings revealed that gender parity will not be attained until 99.5 years later.
Gender gap can be reflected in the workplace both subtly and obviously. If an employer, for example, makes the employees’ gender as a criteria for recruitment, this implies prejudice, bias and ultimately, gender disparity. The same issues can be argued when an executive opts to pay female employees a significantly lower salary than male employees for more or less similar workload. This poses a potential threat not just to women, but the economy itself.
Case in point, access to quality education is one of the areas where there is a notable disparity between girls and boys. When girls are not provided access to educational resources like boys are, this can adversely impact the ability of girls to build human and social capital, which eventually lowers opportunities and wage in labor markets.
How economies and societies thrive is heavily dependent on gender parity. That is, genders, particularly women and how their talents are being developed, hold a fundamental bearing on the growth, competitiveness, and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.
Gender Gap in Education
Although this article explores the gender gaps that exist in the workplace, it is crucial that we first dive into the root causes of these gaps and answer questions like: “What provokes gender gaps in the workplace?” or “What actions enable gender bias and inequality in the workplace?”. If we are to answer these questions, then what better field to pinpoint than the field of education where girls and boys are first taught about concepts that broaden their knowledge of the practical world—from their ABCs to multiplication tables, and more technical lessons such as accomplishing job applications and acing job interviews?
It is without a doubt that today, more and more organizations that advocate for women’s education are being established. You may be familiar with the Malala Fund, an international, non-profit organization co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education. Similarly, Educate Girls’ is a non-profit organization in India that works toward girls' education in the country’s rural and educationally backward areas by mobilizing its communities. These and many other women education organizations utilize their means in making a world where every girl can learn.
However, how far have we really gone in bridging the gap between genders in the field of education?
Pamela Jakiela and Susannah Hares from the Center for Global Development say that a number of countries have yet to perform appropriate measures in achieving gender equality in the classroom. Nevertheless, present data say that the investments made in global development dedicated to women’s education have a significant and effective impact in bridging the gender gaps in education. Schooling attainment has also become more balanced between male and female students over the last century. In other words, the efforts made to advocate equal access to quality education between girls and boys has brought nothing but positive results in global development.
It is easy to establish a linkage between education and the workplace. If girls are unfairly deprived of access to quality education, then how can we expect them to receive the same job and promotion opportunities as boys?
Mitigating educational barriers such as distance to school, cultural norms and practices, school-related gender-based violence, and early or forced marriage will, at least, increase the probability of keeping girls in school and ensuring that they learn in a safe and supportive environment. Measures taken to help clear these barriers will benefit not only girls themselves but also their families, their communities, and their societies. Eventually, the workplace will be a place that offers equal opportunities to all genders.
The Future of Jobs
The 2020 Global Gender Gap Report also details a forecast of the overall outlook of jobs in the future. It reveals that the most challenging part that prevents bridging the gender gap in the economy is the under-representation of women in emerging roles. The population of women, according to the report, only account for a small percentage in the workforce of multiple fields. In cloud computing, for example, only 12 percent of the professionals are women. The same trend exists in the workforce of both Engineering, and Data and Artificial Intelligence, where women only make up 15 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Women must therefore be better equipped in skills and knowledge for them to deal with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities in the 21st century workplace. To do this, workforce strategies need to be inclined in gender-inclusive hiring practices such as diversity hiring where the recruitment process of employees is based on merit and is free from biases related to the candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics not related to their job performance.
While the facts and figures of the report state that it will take 95 years before the gender gap is completely closed, gradual gender-inclusive practices can help shorten this time frame and ultimately bring about women empowerment in not just the workplace but also in other facets such as political representation, education, and even sports.
The Performing Countries
For the 11th year running, Iceland remains the top country to advocate for gender parity in fields like the economy, education, healthcare, and political representation. Since the 2009 index, Iceland has maintained its standing as the most gender-inclusive country, and improved in crafting policies and laws that aim to make women safer and more comfortable in their country. Likewise, countries Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, and Spain have made a major leap from its standing in the 2019 index, which means that they have made the best solutions against gender disparity in their respective nations.
The World Economic Forum ranked 149 countries in the 2020 index, and deduced that 101 countries improved their scores from the 2019 report while the performances of 48 countries remain unchanged. Among the 101 improved countries are the top 10th percentile whose scores all improved by more than 3.3 percent “year-on-year”.
While the performances of 48 countries remain unchanged from the 2019 report, the top 10th percentile of the list of countries saw their scores improve by more than 3.3 percent “year-on-year”. Finally, a total of 35 countries have also achieved gender parity in education, and 119 countries achieved near-parity in healthcare.
Countries that could do better
On the worldwide scale, gender parity is only at 68.6 percent and the ten least performing countries have only closed 40 percent of the gender gap. Scores on political empowerment are also minimal as women are only represented in 25 percent of available parliamentary positions. 85 states have also never had a female head of state.
Contrary to the 95 year-duration for closing in on the gender gap in political representation, economic participation will take 257 years to close in on gender gap issues. It is even more alarming if we compare this to the 2019 report which predicts a 202-year closing in time. This means that over the year, our gender gap issues worsened by 55 years. Among the factors that have worsened the gender inequality in economic participation is the fact that only 55 percent of women aged 15 to 64 are engaged in the labor market as opposed to 78 percent of men.
In 72 countries, women are barred from opening bank accounts, let alone obtain credit. There also is no country where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as women.
The cases mentioned above all prove that there is still a long way to go in closing the gender gap in fields like economic participation, political representation, and other facets that have significant bearing on the dynamics in the workplace. Nevertheless, if we continue to support practices that aim for gender-inclusivity, it will only be a matter of time before we get to absolute gender disparity across all fields.
While the facts and figures say we still have an extended way to achieve gender parity, we also cannot undermine the practices everyone is doing to shorten this gap. Feminist movements against gender disparity in fields like the economy, education, politics, and sports have become more evident and prevalent over the years. More countries have also improved their performances on the Global Gender Gap index, and is definitely a good sign!
If the whole world continues to be open on gender-inclusivity, gaps between genders in the workplace will cease to exist.
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