The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 provides a comprehensive overview of current performance and progress over the last decade. On average, in 2015, over 96% of the gap in health outcomes, 95% of the gap in educational attainment, 59% of the gap in economic participation and 23% of the gap in political empowerment has been closed. No country in the world has achieved gender equality. The highest ranked countries—Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland —have closed over 80% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranked country—Yemen—has closed a little less than half of its gender gap (48%).
The Index points to potential role models by revealing those countries that—within their region or their income group—are leaders in having divided resources more equitably between women and men than other countries have, regardless of the overall level of resources available. The detailed Country Profiles allow users to understand not only how close each country lies relative to the equality benchmark in each of the four critical areas, but also provide a snapshot of the legal and social framework within which these outcomes are produced.
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. This edition of the Global Gender Gap Report reveals the trends observed in the data over the past 10 years and seeks to call attention to the need for more rapid progress in closing gender gaps. Out of the 109 countries covered in the past near-decade, 104 have improved their performance, while five have widening gaps. In some countries, progress is occurring in a relatively short time, regardless of whether they are starting out near the top or the bottom of the rankings, and independent of their income; yet in other countries, change is much slower or negligible. The Index points to potential learnings from those that have been able to accelerate the pace of change.
The Report continues to highlight the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance, and summarizes some of the latest research on the economic and societal case for gender equality. Because women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women. The Report highlights the message to policy-makers that, in order to maximize competitiveness and development potential, each country should strive for gender equality—that is, should give women the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men. Four broad groups of countries are evident in the Index: (1) countries that are generally closing education gaps and show high levels of women’s economic participation, (2) countries that are generally closing education gaps but show low levels of women’s economic participation, (3) countries that have large education gaps as well as large gaps in women’s economic participation and (4) countries that have large education gaps but display small gaps in women’s economic participation.
The magnitude of gender gaps in countries around the world is the combined result of various socioeconomic, policy and cultural variables. 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. We also provide information in the Report on the policy levers and business practices currently in use around the world to address the economic gender gap.
What might the next 10 years look like? According to the current rates, reaching parity could take a century or more. However, as many of the measures that are expected to help accelerate change—from paternity leave policies to boardroom targets—have only been implemented in the last few years, they may take some time to bear fruit. Furthermore, 10 years ago the same level of social awareness did not exist around the issue of gender equality and the current momentum gives cause for hope of faster change. Indeed, in a survey of the Chief Human Resource Officers of some of the largest companies in the world on gender equality and the future of jobs, we found optimistic forecasts around gender equality across most levels in organizations and in most of the key economies surveyed. However, there was also recognition of the changing nature of labour markets and a potential reversal of the gains in gender equality unless women and girls are better prepared for the type of occupations that are likely to grow in the future. Figures 40–42 show the expectations of Chief Human Resource Officers around gender equality in entry level, middle management and senior roles by 2020.
We hope that the information contained in the Global Gender Gap Report series will serve as a basis for continued benchmarking by countries on their progress towards gender equality, help support the case for closing gender gaps and encourage further research on policies and practices that are effective at promoting change.