A new study by the World Economic Forum, released on 17 December, found that progress towards gender equity in the workplace was stalling internationally.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on December 18, 2018

“The overall picture is that gender equality has stalled,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Social and Economic Agendas at the World Economic Forum (WEF). “The future of our labour market may not be as equal as the trajectory we thought we were on.”

The new study, titled The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, found that in some indicia of economic parity including income, the position of women improved. This was offset, however, by declines in access to education, healthcare and political representation.

Women still under-represented in STEM and AI industries

Progress in terms of wage equality across genders is so slow the report says it would take 202 years to be closed at the current rate.

Another concern highlighted in the report is that automation in the workplace is disproportionately impacting women. The report says this may be because women often undertake unpaid work such as caring for children.

Women also continue to be under-represented in growth fields across science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Similarly, the WEF found women make up only 22% of the workforce for artificial intelligence, which is expected to be one of the fastest-growing fields. As artificial intelligence increasingly becomes a source of jobs, this divide may only widen, the report suggests.

The overall participation rate for men in the workforce is also increasingly more quickly than the rate for women.

The WEF found the majority of countries are slowly moving towards gender equality

The report covered 149 countries and found the distance towards gender parity (weighted by population) is at 68%, representing a minor improvement from last year. Some movement towards parity was seen in 89 of the 149 countries.

Political leadership remained largely a male domain with only 17 of the nations surveyed having a woman as Head of State.

Among countries where such data was available, just 34% of managerial positions were held by women, though five countries (Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Laos and Philippines) had achieved gender equality in this regard.

The WEF also used the report to advocate for more investment in human capital, particularly around literacy. It found there are 44 countries with a rate of illiteracy among women that was 20% or higher.

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