While gender equality is a fundamental human right, it is also crucial for sustainable and inclusive economic development. However, the coronavirus pandemic has widened the gender gap according to the Global Gender Gap Report. The World Economic Forum calls on countries to put into place new approaches in order to reverse the loss of progress brought about by the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit women and men disproportionally. While 70% of healthcare employees fighting the virus worldwide were women, only 1 out of 5 social protection and labor market measures were gender sensitive more than a year after the pandemic started. The female job loss rate related to the pandemic exceeds the job loss rate of men by 1.8 times. The Global Gender Gap Report 2022 has found that only 68.1% of the total gender inequality has so far been closed meaning that the world needs another 132 years to close the gap completely whereas before the pandemic, this was 100 years and in 2021, it reached 136 years.
Managing Director of the World Economic Forum Saadia Zahidi, commenting on the outcomes of the report, noted:
“The pandemic has fundamentally impacted gender equality in both the workplace and the home, rolling back years of progress. If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to focus leadership attention, commit to firm targets and mobilize resources. This is the moment to embed gender parity by design into the recovery.”
Women are underrepresented in essential roles in manufacturing and infrastructure, with only 19% and 16% holding leading positions in these sectors, respectively. In other sectors, such as education and NGOs, females occupy 40% of the leading roles. Gender inequality rates also vary across countries too. According to the report, amongst 146 countries assessed, Iceland has the highest level of equality between men and women with the gender gap standing at 90.8%, and Finland and Norway follow with 86% and 84.5% of the gap being closed, respectively. The least gender-equal countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan, and The Democratic Republic of Congo where only 43.5%, 56.4%, and 57.5% of the gap has so far been closed, respectively.
Fig.1. Global, Top 10
Source: World Economic Forum
Protecting the human rights of all gender identities is crucial to building more resilient, green, and inclusive societies. Only the equal distribution of resources and opportunities between men and women can enable countries to reach sustainability – countries with a higher level of integration of women within the labor market record better results towards sustainable growth so therefore shrinking the gender gap is crucial.
The World Economic Forum calls on public and private sector leaders to focus on sectors in which the participation rate of women has dropped the most during the last two years and to introduce fair pay and recognition schemes that allow recovery from the pandemic-related losses. At the same time, governments are being called upon to ensure equal access to essential services and goods for men and women, including access to the internet, financial services, and legal protection services. Finally, countries are encouraged to develop a proactive approach to enable women leadership pipelines to be established in business and political organizations, as well as promoting women’s participation in forward-looking sectors such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, data, and biotechnology among others.