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151 Years to Close the Gender Gap in North America?

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

The latest Global Gender Gap report indicates that achieving gender parity will require 151 years in North America. 151 years? Yes, really, 151 years.

This report has been produced annually since 2006 by the World Economic Forum. If you factor in all the countries that have been tracked continuously in the report, the global gender gap will close in just 99.5 years. Guess what that means? North America is lagging way behind. Progress in North America has completely stalled! Just to let you know how others are doing Western Europe should be able to close their gap in just 54 years.

When I ask people where they think the US is in terms of the gender gap, most people say, “We must be up there, the top 10 for sure!”. Try #53, we dropped 2 positions from last year. Let’s look at a comparison of how just a few countries have changed over time. The US had been faring all right until 2011, when the decline started. Then, since 2014 we seem to have been in a free fall dropping from a rank of #20 all the way down to #53.

Contrast this with the performance of the United Kingdom (UK). They have only dropped from #9 to #21 over the past 14 years. If you want to see what can be done in terms of improvement, take a look at the performance of a country like Costa Rica. They have gone from a ranking of #49 to a ranking of #13 over a short 5-year span.

Now, of course everyone wants to know the top 10 countries. Here they are.

But the question we should really be asking ourselves in the US is why are we allowing this to happen?

If you dig a bit into the data, a couple of things become evident. There are four sub-indices that are tracked which compose the composite gender gap for each country:

- Health and Survival

- Educational Attainment

- Economic Participation and the Prosperity

- Political Empowerment

Two of these indices we need to worry about. The US and many other developed countries now have great scores on Health and Survival and Educational Attainment.

Where we come up lacking is in the Economic Participation and the Prosperity and Political Empowerment indices.

The truly sad part of this, is the US score on Economic Participation and Prosperity has been exactly the same since 2006. Reflecting absolutely no progress at all for the last 13 years! One of the biggest contributors to this gap is the lack of equality in wages and overall income gap.

“American women still struggle to enter the very top business positions: only 21.7% of corporate managing board members are women”

“In no country in the world is the amount of time spent by men on unpaid work (mainly domestic and volunteer work) equal to that of women; and in many countries, women still spend multiple-folds as much time than men on these activities. Even in countries where this ratio is lowest (i.e. Norway or the United States) women spend almost twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work.”

The Political Empowerment indices are low because women are under-represented in political leadership roles.

“In Canada and the United States, women representation in congress hovers around 25%, approximately 10% below Western Europe’s average.”

“Further, considering head of states over the past 50 years, in 85 of the 153 countries covered by this report there has never been a woman in charge. This accounts for 56% of the countries covered, and, notably, includes emerging and advanced economies such as Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States.”

So, what do we need to do?

- Men need to pick up their share of the unpaid domestic and volunteer work

- Companies must close the gender wage gap and promote women into leadership positions, especially at the top echelons

- We need to elect more women to office, especially at the higher levels.

“The [Global Gender Gap] report highlights the message to policy-makers that countries that want to remain competitive and inclusive will need to make gender equality a critical part of their nation’s human capital development.”

Assuming we want to make America as prosperous as possible, we better get on this NOW! We cannot wait 151 years to achieve gender parity in North America!

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