International Women’s Day – Not much cause for celebration?
Equal rights in the work place are a very important issue; results show that as the gender gap’s narrow, a countries economy, productivity and health rises. In terms of different countries, statistics show the Scandinavian countries have the best track record (closing around 80% of their gender gaps), with Norway even enforcing the law that all PLC companies must have 40% of their board female and Sweden generously giving 480 days of maternity leave. Iceland perhaps surprisingly top the list; with 43% of its parliament female, a female head of state for 18 of the past 50 years, 81% of women in the workforce and even have history on their side as they were one the first nations to give women the vote in 1915. But true gender equality still remains a target for each country, with some countries (African and South American regions) even widening the gap in the last year, showing a step backwards. If the gender gaps could be shortened in the US and EU, it is predicted we would see boosts in the economies at around 10%, a commanding increase in these negative times.
|The Global Gender Gap 2011 Rankings – Top 20|
|* Scores produced on zero-to-one scale and can be roughly interpreted as percentage of gender gap that has been closed.|
Table of top 20 countries in terms of closing their gender gap.
The UK is currently ranked at 16th in the world, with a 74.6% closure of gender gaps and one place down from last year. The UK (like most countries) has impressive figures in education and health; where the average figures are in the 90’s. Not so impressive are the economic and political participation figures which continue to show the largest gaps. These two represent the wages gaps, participation in the labour force, women in high skilled jobs and their participation in the decision making structures (aka Government). In the UK; men in full time jobs are likely to earn 9% more than women in full time jobs, in terms of female involvement in high skilled jobs the UK ranks 35th with only 23% of senior management made of women (with the Bahamas having the best ratio) and in terms of political integration the UK finishes a poor 45th with only 14% of the cabinet female (with Rwanda the only nation where women hold a majority in parliament). To put the last statistic into perspective, fellow countries like Germany, France and Spain have between 30-50% of their cabinet female. Overall in Britain, only 20% of the key national positions are held by women (law makers, ministers etc).
In contrast to the rest of the world the UK are in an okay position, but could do much better. They rank above the USA just (with the USA yet to have a female head of state), and are nowhere near as bad as countries like Yemen; who came dead last with only 5% of women in high skilled jobs and no women in parliament. The UK faces a long journey till real equality between sexes, but there are steps that could be taken now, like mandated representation in corporate boards and parliament. We are progressing, but the slow pace of change will remind women that there isn’t much to celebrate this International women’s day.