Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
People and their talents are among the core drivers of sustainable, long-term economic growth. If half of these talents are underdeveloped or underutilized, growth and sustainability will be compromised. Moreover, there is a compelling and fundamental values case for empowering women: women represent one half of the global population—they deserve equal access to health, education, earning power and political representation.
The current inequalities risk being exacerbated in the future. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform the global economy and society in an unprecedented manner. Industries are already undergoing profound shifts in their business models as technology is disrupting current methods of production, consumption and delivery. Labour markets are also rapidly changing in this context. As a result, gender gaps are set to increase in some industries as jobs traditionally held by women become obsolete, while at the same time opportunities are emerging in wholly new domains. We must clearly understand the progress thus far as well as the future outlook to reap the opportunities and mitigate the challenges presented by these trends.
Through the Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum quantifies the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracks their progress over time. While no single measure can capture the complete situation, the Global Gender Gap Index presented in this Report seeks to measure one important aspect of gender equality: the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics. The Index points to potential role models by revealing those countries that—within their region or income group—are leaders in distributing resources more equitably between women and men, regardless of the overall level of available resources.
The Global Gender Gap Index was developed in 2006, partially to address the need for a consistent and comprehensive measure for gender equality that can track a country’s progress over time. In some countries, progress is occurring rapidly regardless of starting point and income level, but in others, change is much slower or negligible. A decade of data has revealed that the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap has been closed by 59%, with slow improvements of 3% over the past ten years. In Educational Attainment, the gender gap has decreased compared to 2006 and now stands at 95%. Health and Survival is the subindex that is closest to parity, at 96%, but the gap has widened slightly compared to 2006. While the most relative improvement over the last decade has been made in Political Empowerment, the gender gap in this area remains the widest, with only 23% being closed.
The magnitude of national gender gaps is the combined result of various socioeconomic, policy and cultural variables. Governments thus have a leading role to play as the closure or continuation of these gaps is intrinsically connected to the framework of national policies in place. The Index does not seek to set priorities for countries but rather to provide a comprehensive set of data and a clear method for tracking gaps on critical indicators so that countries may set priorities within their own economic, political and cultural contexts. In addition, governments must align their efforts with those of business and civil society to foster growth that includes both men and women. The World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge on Gender Parity seeks to promote public-private cooperation to close gender gaps, based in part on the analytical tools provided by this Report as well as others.
We would like to express our appreciation to Yasmina Bekhouche, Project Lead, Gender Parity Initiative; Paulina Padilla Ugarte, Specialist, Employment and Gender Parity Initiatives; Vesselina Ratcheva, Data Analyst, Employment and Gender Parity Initiatives; and Saadia Zahidi, Head of Employment and Gender Initiatives, for their dedication to this Report. We would also like to thank Lena Woodward, Valerie Peyre, Kristin Keveloh and Till Leopold for their support at the World Economic Forum. We are grateful for the ongoing support of Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Center for International Development, Harvard University, and Laura D. Tyson, Director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Finally, we welcome the untiring support of the Partners of the Global Challenge on Gender Parity and their commitment to closing gender gaps
It is our hope that this latest edition of the Report will serve as a call to action to spur change on an issue that is central to our future. Ultimately, it is through each individual adapting his or her beliefs and actions that change can occur. We call upon every reader of this Report to join these efforts.