Achieving Gender Parity

01 Dec 2023

Over two decades into the twenty-first century, the world has come a long way. Economic, Social and Technological progress have been rapid. However, there is one area where growthhas been slow and incremental, and that is Gender Parity. According to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take another 132 years for the world to reach Gender Parity. 

Global Gender Gap

According to the latest Oxfam figures, nearly two thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women, a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades. In 2021, nearly one in five women were married before the age of 18. Women have restricted access to their own income and have limited say in important household decisions. Further, according to the WHO, over 1 in 3 women worldwide experience violence in their lifetime. These inequalities often spill-over into the economic space, reducing agency and thus creating a vicious cycle. 

Economic Disparities and Challenges Across the Globe

At the workplace, women often tend to face a ‘sticky floor’ of which gender pay gap remains prominent. On average, women are paid 24% less than men for comparable work, across all regions and sectors. Further, 153 countries have laws which discriminate against women economically, including 18 countries where husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. 

Those women that are able to enter the workforce, often face the issues of a ‘leaky pipeline’ and a ‘glass ceiling’ at the workplace. ‘Leaky pipeline’ refers to the women who enter the labour market and get a job but end up leaving it owing to various reasons of which security, maternity, childbirth, and the lack of societal and professional support remain prominent. This is coupled with the ‘glass ceiling’ where they are unable to occupy top leadership positions in their organizations. In 2022, the global share of women in senior leadership across public and private sectors is only 33%. In the private sector, women represent only 31% of leaders globally. To make structural changes in systems which perpetuate gender inequality, having women in leadership roles is particularly important in the public sector. However, currently women make up less than 24% of the world parliamentarians and 5% of its mayors. 

Entrepreneurship as a Solution

Entrepreneurship remains a powerful tool to combat gender inequality. However, according to the World Bank, in all economies, there are far fewer women than men who own or manage limited liability companies. Women represent on average only 25% of new business owners and directors. This gap has remained widespread and stable over the past years and has been a product of social prejudices, legal constraints, lack of access to finance, technology, and markets among others. 

These are just some of the figures that highlight the inequality across various domains. We continue to live in a gender unequal world and as the world economy undergoes structuralchanges on account of rapid technological progress, these inequalities can inflate. There is an urgent need to build gender just systems in both public and private sectors to prevent this. 

India’s Journey

India’s journey towards gender parity has been a mixed bag. India is one of the few countries which has had a woman Head of State and a woman Head of Government. India has significant political representation of women at the local level with 33% legally mandated reservation.

The recent policy push aimed at reducing the gender divide is welcome and is likely to start showing results in the years to come. Be it the campaigns like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save the girl child, teach the girl child) to create awareness and remove social prejudices, or the opening of millions of bank accounts for women and the direct transfers of various subsidies into these accounts for financial inclusion. This has been complemented by the government’s efforts at building social infrastructure for all, including universal health and education. Various legal provisions have also been introduced and strengthened to address women’s security including sexual harassment at the workplace. While India has come a long way from the time of independence in 1947, there is much left to be desired in achieving gender parity and inclusive growth. 

The Way Forward

The world cannot look at becoming prosperous by leaving half of its people behind. According to World Economic Forum, improving women’s participation in the workforce could add US$12 trillion to global GDP and boost some countries’ economic output by as much as 35%. Going ahead, collecting data, changing mindsets, enabling women’s participation in the workforce, closing gender pay gaps, enhancing women’s security, providing care facilities, advancing women into leadership and management roles, supporting women entrepreneurs, and hardwiring gender parity into the future of work, will have to be some of the priorities of governments around the world if they wish to see global prosperity in its true sense. 

How can different stakeholders be it public, private, or civil society work towards a more gender equal world? What steps can be taken to overcome sticky floor, leaky pipelines, and glass ceilings for women at workforce? How can we better prepare ourselves for the future of work so that it is more gender equal rather than unequal?

Find out at the Global Economic Policy Forum 2023

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