Five generations until pay equity? WEF report reveals shocking gender Gap

The world has made dismayingly slow progress in closing the global gender gap, according to a major report released today by the World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report 2024 reveals that the gap has closed by just 68.5% globally, with complete parity not expected for another 134 years – nearly five generations from now.

The slight 0.1 percentage point increase in closing the gender gap since last year was driven mainly by modest gains in economic participation and opportunity for women. However, the report shows women remain vastly underrepresented in leadership roles across politics and industry.

"Despite some bright spots, the slow and incremental gains highlighted in this year's Global Gender Gap Report underscore the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to achieving gender parity, particularly in economic and political spheres," said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum. "We cannot wait until 2158 for parity. The time for decisive action is now."

While half of the 158 countries assessed made minor progress, cavernous disparities persist globally. In the political arena, women have increased their representation at federal and local levels, but top leadership positions remain largely off-limits. This could change with over 60 national elections scheduled for 2024 in which the largest global population in history is set to vote.

Likewise, LinkedIn data shows the "drop to the top" phenomenon across industries, where women's representation plummets from entry-level to C-suite roles. Women currently account for just 31.7% of senior leaders worldwide while making up 42% of the global workforce. 

Some positive developments are highlighted, however. Women's labour force participation rebounded to 65.7% globally after dropping during the pandemic. And Latin America led all regions with a 74.2% overall gender parity score, driven by strong numbers in employment and political empowerment.

But sobering challenges remain, especially in STEM fields. Though women's representation in AI engineering roles has doubled since 2016, just 29% of entry-level STEM jobs are held by women, falling to 12.2% at the executive level. Online course data also shows a stark gender gap in enrollment for AI, data science and cybersecurity programs.

"The slow progress that had been made in women being hired into leadership roles is now starting to erode from a peak seen in 2022. As the global economy has cooled, it is women that have been disproportionately hit, reinforcing the systemic issues that hold women back in the workplace," said Sue Duke, Vice President of Global Public Policy at LinkedIn.

To finally achieve gender parity, the Forum is calling on governments and businesses to shift resources and prioritize equitable policies through its Global Gender Parity Sprint to 2030 initiative. Only coordinated efforts can put the world on track to close the gap within a generation instead of five.

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