Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

IWD23: 8 charts that show progress towards the SDGs from a gender perspective

Polycrises have had a huge impact on equality – and, in particular, gender equality. Image: Unsplash/Tim Mossholder

Kate Whiting
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Education, Gender and Work

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  • International Women’s Day, on 8 March, is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality globally.
  • The UN’s Gender Snapshot Report looks at progress towards reaching the 17 Sustainable Development Goals through a gender lens.
  • From ending poverty to women’s political empowerment, there’s still a long way to go to reach gender parity.

The world is more than halfway through the timeframe the United Nations (UN) set back in 2015 to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Progress towards meeting the goals has been derailed by the ‘polycrisis’ the world faces, where interlinking crises (including the pandemic, the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine), are combining to have a huge impact on equality – and, in particular, gender equality.

Goal 5 sets out nine targets to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, but the latest available data shows the world is not on track to achieve these by 2030.

The World Economic Forum’s own Gender Gap Report 2022 found it will take another 132 years to reach full gender parity – a whole generation longer than the 100 years the gap was due to take to close pre-pandemic.


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Only one in three managers or supervisors is currently a woman, according to the UN’s Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Gender Snapshot 2022, and it will take another 140 years to reach parity, showing that the glass ceiling persists.

The report also found it could take 286 years to remove discriminatory laws and close gaps in legal protections for women and girls globally.

The UN’s Gender Snapshot looked at all 17 SDGs with a gender lens, to show how gender inequality persists across them all, ultimately impacting on SDG5. This collection of charts shows some of the top impacts.

SDG1: No Poverty

Chart showing the female poverty headcount based on international poverty lines.
Progress in poverty reduction has reversed. Image: UN Women

The pandemic saw the number of people living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day) rise from around 8.6% in 2018 to around 9% by the end of 2022. But more of those are women and girls. The UN estimated that, by the end of 2022, there would be 383 million women and girls living in extreme poverty compared to 368 million men and boys.

SDG2: Zero Hunger

Graphs showing the proportion of the population that is moderately or severely food insecure, by sex.
Women are more likely to experience food insecurity. Image: UN Women

Food insecurity impacts women and girls more – and the gap is growing, compounded by the “triple threat” of the climate crisis, COVID-19 and conflict, says the UN. During the pandemic, “moderate or severe food insecurity” rose by more than 4 percentage points for women between 2019 and 2021 – from 27.5% to 31.9%. For men, it rose by just under 2 percentage points in the same period, from 25.7% to 27.6%.

Location is again a key factor in food security. More than a third (37.5%) of households in war-affected areas headed by women experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2021, compared to a fifth of male-headed households.

SDG3: Good Health and Well-being

Statistics displaying the health and well-being in women.
The pandemic has worsened women’s chances for a healthy life. Image: UN Women

The pandemic overwhelmed healthcare systems globally – and the fallout has had a disproportionate effect on women. They are more likely to have anxiety and depressive disorders than men, while women’s life expectancy fell by 1.6 years between 2019 and 2021.

SDG4: Education

Statistic showing the percentage of woman aged 20-29 who have completed upper secondary school.
Secondary school completion for girls depends on location and wealth. Image: UN Women

Achieving universal, high-quality education for all girls remains out of reach, according to the Gender Snapshot Report 2022. Although there have been gains in the past few decades, the pandemic saw greater learning loss among girls than boys in certain countries.

Almost 130 million girls are not enrolled in formal education worldwide – and more than half of those live in crisis-affected countries, including Afghanistan, where girls are not allowed to go to secondary school. Completing secondary school for girls depends on location and wealth.

SDG7: Clean and affordable energy

Graphs showing the maternal mortality ratios in countries with the lowest electricity access.
Maternal mortality rates are higher in countries with less access to electricity. Image: UN Women

Millions of women and girls in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa lack access to clean and affordable energy, which are vital for life-saving hospital care, and to help them with education and work. In 2020, 2.4 billion people were cooking with polluting fuels, placing them at risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and increasing women’s domestic burden through fuel collection and longer cooking times. Women in South Sudan, which has a high maternal mortality rate, often give birth by candlelight, due to power outages.

SDG8: Decent work and economic growth

Graphs showing the working hours lost due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Women lost more working hours than men during the pandemic. Image: UN Women

Working women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic as a greater proportion worked in retail and entertainment sectors that were more disrupted and in informal employment. The UN predicted that, in 2022, women’s labour force participation would stay below pre-pandemic levels in 169 countries and areas, and the gender gap was “expected to widen in 114 countries and areas compared to 2019”.

SDGs 12-15: Climate, nature and responsible consumption

Statistics showing the impact of climate and human-made disasters on lives of women and girls.
Women are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Image: UN Women

The Gender Snapshot 2022 groups together the four SDGs that involve the natural environment and how it is used by humans. It finds women are more greatly affected by climate change due to being more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have control of land, as well as being excluded from decision-making.

SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions

Graphs showing the participation of women in selected public sector leadership positions.
Women occupy under 50% of public-sector leadership roles. Image: UN Women

“In all the places where decisions are made, gender parity is far from being achieved,” says the report. Fewer than half of leadership roles in public sector institutions from government to the police were occupied by women in 2022, although globally they make up 46% of the public sector workforce. The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 found Political Empowerment to be the least closed of the four key gaps tracked, at just 22% closed.

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