The UK is lagging behind many other countries when it comes to gender parity, according to an alarming new report that shows how many years it will take to close the gender gap worldwide.
It’s hard to stamp out precisely because of the subtle way that it takes root at every step of a woman’s career, whether that be hiring decisions, sexism in the workplace or issues related to state pension access.
The bottom line is, we have a huge amount of hurdles to overcome in the fight for equality – and a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights exactly how lengthy the battle will be.
In its annual Global Gender Gap Report released today, the WEF predicts that it will take 99.5 years to achieve full gender parity for women worldwide.
Although it seems amazing that neither the millennial generation or their children will live to see the gender gap closed in their lifetime, this estimation actually represents an improvement on the 2018 WEF analysis – which forecast a figure of 108 years.
The WEF report ranked 153 countries worldwide on gender parity in terms of four key areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.
The gender gap varies wildly across these different areas, the analysis shows. In education, for example, it will take 12 years to attain gender parity (and in fact, gender parity has already been achieved in 40 of the 153 countries ranked).
But this stands in stark contrast to the world of politics, which will take a staggering 95 years to achieve the same level of equality. According to the WEF, women held 25.2% of parliamentary (lower-house) seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions in 2019.
In the latest report, the UK has slipped from 15th to 21st place in the worldwide struggle for gender parity. In doing so, it trails many other Western European countries, including Germany, Ireland and Spain.
Unsurprisingly given their reputation for gender equality, Scandinavian countries including Norway, Finland and Sweden lead the top ten nations achieving gender parity, while Iceland hits the top spot overall.
Last week’s General Election in the UK saw a record number of female politicians elected to the House of Commons. Although, now at 34%, the level of women in parliament is still well below a 50-50 level of gender equity.
In the weeks of campaigning that preceded the vote, the Labour Party vowed that it would close the gender pay gap by 2030 if it won – 60 years sooner than it would take under a Conservative government, it claimed. However, the Tories said Labour was “over-promising something they cannot deliver”, and insisted that the focus should remain on opportunities for women more generally.
The WEF says that the UK is lagging behind other rich and developing nations in the 2019 report partly because of the lack of women in ministerial positions. The economic gender gap is also high here, due to more women working part-time, and under-representation in fast-growing industries such as AI, engineering and computing.