• More women than men have lost jobs due to COVID-19.
  • Data shows a decline in the hiring of women for leadership roles in 2020.
  • The Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators are addressing these problems and hardwiring gender parity into the post-COVID world of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reversed progress made towards achieving gender parity. At current trajectories, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide, predicts the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021. Closing gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity are projected to take almost double the time at 267.6 years.

Why has the pandemic hurt women more than men?

More women have lost jobs as compared to men.

Sectors overrepresented by women are worst hit by the pandemic, and 5% of all employed women lost their jobs compared to 3.9% of men. Additionally, care obligations induced by lockdowns and school closures have disproportionately fallen on women. This growing “double shift” contributed to higher levels of stress, lower levels of productivity, and exit from the labour market altogether.

Global Gender Gap Report 2021 - care and the pandemic
During the pandemic, parents faced different experiences with caregiving depending on gender.
Image: World Economic Forum

Data also shows a marked decline in hiring women for leadership roles.

This creates a reversal of one to two years of progress across multiple industries. While industries such as software and IT services, financial services, health and healthcare, and manufacturing continue to close gender gaps in senior management roles, industries with higher participation of women – such as consumer goods, non-profits, and media and communication – have seen a reduced share of women in overall roles.

Global Gender Gap Report 2021 - women's hiring senior management roles in 2020
In 2020, there were fewer women hired into senior management positions.
Image: World Economic Forum

There is a small window of opportunity for a gender-equal recovery, but efforts must prepare women for the future of work as some of the fastest-growing “jobs of tomorrow” continue to have poor representation of women. For example, women make up 14% of the workforce in cloud computing, 20% in engineering and 32% in data and artificial intelligence. While care, education and other social sector roles – in which women have stronger representation – also offer areas of future growth, these are often lower paid than other “jobs of tomorrow”. Addressing this disparity between sectors is crucial.

Gender Accelerators to close gaps and hardwire gender parity

The World Economic Forum has supported Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators at the country level. These accelerators provide a multi-stakeholder, public-private partnership model to systematically accelerate closing gender gaps through focused, multi-pronged initiatives. Currently, nine countries in the Latin American and Middle East and North African regions host Gender Accelerators.

The Accelerators focus on four priority areas – and they are already working to close gaps. Here are a few examples.

1. Hardwire gender parity in the post-COVID world of work.

In order to tackle female unemployment, the Ministry of Labour in Colombia designed a gender-oriented employment strategy in coordination with the Government Women Mechanism and the Colombian Public Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo). Economic sectors that were about to reactivate from the quarantine were identified, and women were placed in job openings in the companies from reactivated sectors.

2. Close gender gaps in remuneration between and within sectors.

Natura &Co estimated the unexplained gender pay gap in their organisation at 0.9% and has committed to achieving pay parity by 2023.

3. Enable women's participation in the labour force.

Enhancing social safety nets, specifically around childcare facilities and support, can help close the economic gender gap. Sweden, a knowledge partner country of the Global Learning Network of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators, offers 480 days of subsidized leave per child, much of which parents can share as they wish, with 390 days paid for by the government, at a rate of about 80% of salary.

4. Advance more women into management and leadership positions.

In 2019, Dr. Mohamed Omran, Chairman of the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) in Egypt, issued decrees number (123 and 124) that require both listed companies and non-bank financial institutions to have at least one woman on the board. These decrees are being enacted with support from the gender accelerator in Egypt.

Kazakhstan is the latest country to launch an Accelerator, becoming the first Central Asian economy to address women’s participation in the workforce with support from the World Economic Forum. The Accelerator will be anchored in the National Commission on Women's Affairs and Family and Demographic Policy and coordinated by the Astana International Finance Centre.

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 ten countries across three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

All Country Accelerators, along with Knowledge Partner countries demonstrating global leadership in closing gender gaps, are part of a wider ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, that facilitates exchange of insights and experiences through the Forum’s platform.

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.

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.