‘Pledge for parity’ is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, with the focus on women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements and contributions.

At the current rate of development, the World Economic Forum predicts it will take until 2133 to achieve global gender parity, 38 years later than was originally predicted in 2014.

The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index measures parity in the areas of health (life expectancy), education (literacy, enrolment), economy (employment, earnings) and politics (representation) in over 100 countries.  Women’s parity with men in those areas sits at 96% for health, 95% education, 59% economics and only 23% in politics.

In the latest publication, Australia sits at no.36, the UK 26 and USA 20.  Unsurprisingly Nordic and Scandinavian nations are ranked as many of the best countries for women, with Iceland taking out top spot ahead of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland.  Importantly though, even Iceland at no.1 has not achieved gender parity in all areas.  At no.6, Rwanda debuts in the top ten and boasts the highest number of female parliamentarians in the world.  The top ten is rounded out by the Philippines, Switzerland, Slovenia and New Zealand.  The bottom ten include the usual suspects of war torn or oppressive Middle Eastern countries in Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen and their North African equivalents in Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Chad.

Rwanda: 64% of parliamentarians are women
Rwanda: 64% of parliamentarians are women

The GGGI was launched in 2006 and not until 2015 did women reach the level of earnings that men had already achieved ten years earlier.  In the last five years this measurement has stalled, however on a positive note, the education gap has closed 3%, with 25 countries closing the gap completely.  Sadly, in Sri Lanka, Mali, Croatia, Slovakia, Jordan and Iran, six countries that have participated in the report since 2006, women’s’ overall standings have regressed.

Of biggest concern to the WEF is the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ which is predicted to significantly disrupt labour markets and socio-economic organisation.  Not only are roles traditionally filled by women expected to shrink (eg. office and administration roles) but the predicted growth of STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are areas of low female representation.  The WEF is predicting women to ‘gain only one new STEM job for every 20 lost across other job families,’ whereas for men the difference will be 1 in 4.

Higher female representation is needed in STEM positions, traditionally male dominated professions
Higher female representation is needed in STEM jobs, traditionally male dominated professions

On the upside the report highlights that businesses around the world see the recruitment of women as a priority and helpful to growth, the number of women in senior roles is expected to increase over the next decade and in almost 100 countries, more women are enrolling and graduating from university than men.

Overall, the status of women globally is improving, though at a painfully slow rate, which can be seen by the predicted century long march to parity.  To support the #pledgeforparity the UN is encouraging individuals and organisations to take action in 5 areas:

•    Help women and girls achieve their ambitions
•    Challenge conscious and unconscious bias
•    Call for gender balanced leadership
•    Value women and men’s contributions equally
•    Create inclusive, flexible cultures

For more information visit the International Women’s Day website here – http://www.internationalwomensday.com/