• While the overall gender gap has narrowed, the latest figures show the economic gender gap has widened.
  • It will be 257 years before men and women have pay equality.
  • The report finds a 2% increase in the number of women in senior roles, but women’s participation in the labour market is stalling and financial disparities are growing.

It's the year 2277, and women have finally achieved equal pay at work.

This sounds startling – but it may be the reality.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says men and women will have pay equality in 257 years, 55 more years than the estimate in the previous edition.

While the overall gender gap across politics, education, health and work has narrowed, the latest figures show the economic gender gap has widened – though it’s still better than it was in 2006 when the World Economic Forum began measuring the global gender gap.

A small step back

Why is the world regressing on this important measure of gender equality?

Although the report finds a 2% increase in the number of women in senior roles, it says women’s participation in the labour market is stalling and financial disparities are growing, which explains the widening of the economic gap.

Currently, only 55% of adult women are in the labour market, compared to 78% of men. Meanwhile, more than 40% of the wage gap and 50% of the income gap still need to be closed.

Workplace Gap, Global Gender Gap Report 2020
Less than half of the global labor force are women.
Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum

Worldwide, the average woman’s annual income is $11,500, versus $21,500 for a man.

To make matters worse, in many countries a lack of access to capital, land or financial products prevent women from making a living.

There are many factors behind the disparity in earnings and career opportunities. They include women choosing lower-paid occupations, working part-time, the “motherhood penalty,” doing most of the childcare and household chores and, not least, discrimination and bias.

Gaps at the frontiers

In the rapidly changing world of work, another major obstacle to closing the economic gender gap is the under-representation of women in the most in-demand occupations.

Based on a new analysis produced in collaboration with LinkedIn, the report looks at emerging gaps at what it calls “the frontiers of the new economy,” where employment and wage growth are rising rapidly.

Here, women outnumber men in just two of eight job clusters, "content production" and "people and culture."

Only 12% of professionals in "cloud computing" are women, 15% in 'engineering" and 26% in "data and artificial intelligence."

Future of Jobs, Global Gender Gap Report 2020
Women outnumber men in just two of eight job clusters, “content production” and “people and culture”.
Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum

In order to tackle the economic gender gap, leaders will need to do more to equip women for the professions of the future, through continuous upskilling or reskilling, along with diversifying hiring and creating inclusive work cultures.

"Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world. For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle.

"This is why the World Economic Forum is working with business and government stakeholders to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap," said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank.

In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles.

France has become the second G20 country to launch a Gender Gap Accelerator, signalling that developed economies are also playing an important role in spearheading this approach to closing the gender gap.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.