Global gender gap narrowing, but still far away to reach parity

 July 19, 2022

World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2022 shows that gender parity may not be achieved for a further 132 years. 

In 2022, the global gender gap has been closed by 68.1%. At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. This represents a slight four-year improvement compared to the 2021 estimate (136 years to parity).

"As crises are compounding, women's workforce outcomes are suffering and the risk of global gender parity backsliding further intensifies," cites the report. 

Global Gender Gap Report

And when it comes to achieving workplace equality, the Global Gender Gap Report shows it will take another 151 years. Men still hold a clear advantage in being promoting to leadership roles. Meanwhile, female founders are starting their own businesses at a faster rate than men.

Progress has paused for women and girls around the world


Saadia Zahidi, a Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, says: "While more women have been moving into paid work over the last decades and, increasingly, into leadership positions in industry, there have been continued headwinds: societal expectations, employer policies, the legal environment and the availability of care infrastructure. This has continued to limit the educational opportunities women access as well as the career possibilities they can pursue. The economic and social consequences of the pandemic and geopolitical conflict have paused progress and worsened outcomes for women and girls around the world – and risk creating permanent scarring in the labour market. Conversely, the increasing representation of women in leadership in a number of industries, engagement in tertiary education overall and rebound in professional and technical roles are encouraging and may provide a basis for future efforts."

The report benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment. 

The report cites that gender gaps in the workforce are driven and affected by many factors, including long-standing structural barriers, socioeconomic and technological transformation, as well as economic shocks. More women have been moving into paid work and, increasingly, leadership positions, yet globally societal expectations, employer policies, the legal environment and the availability of care continue to play an important role in the choice of educational tracks and career trajectories.

Achieving gender parity across countries

2022 WEF gender report

Although no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top 10 economies have closed at least 80% of their gender gaps, with Iceland (90.8%) leading the global ranking.

Iceland remains the only economy to have closed more than 90% of its gender gap. Other Scandinavian countries such as Finland (86%, 2nd), Norway (84.5%, 3rd) and Sweden (82.2%, 5th) feature in the top 5, with additional European countries such as Ireland (80.4%) and Germany (80.1%) in 9th and 10th positions, respectively.

Sub-Saharan African countries Rwanda (81.1%, 6th) and Namibia (80.7%, 8th), along with one Latin American country, Nicaragua (81%, 7th), and one country from East Asia and the Pacific, New Zealand (84.1%, 4th), also take positions in the top 10.

Nicaragua and Germany are the new entrants in the top 10 in 2022, while Lithuania (79.9%,11th) and Switzerland (79.5%, 13th) drop out this year.

LinkedIn data powering the Global Gender Gap Report 

WEF LInkedIn leadership data

LinkedIn is a Partner with WEF on the Global Gender Gap Report and its own data highlights the many challenges facing working women, with the report suggesting what can be done to make workplaces and societies more equal. 

LinkedIn's data featured in the gender gap report demonstrates that the world has a gender imbalance in leadership roles in almost every country and industry. Women are severely under-represented, holding less than a third of leadership positions globally. There is a narrow pipeline of female talent that shrinks with seniority.

Linkedin WEF gender

"What is equally concerning is that LinkedIn’s data reveals men have a significantly higher chance of being promoted into leadership roles than their female colleagues," explains Suzanne Duke, Head of Global Public Policy and Economic Graph Team at LinkedIn. "Comparing the global average for men and women in 2021, men were 33% more likely to receive an internal leadership promotion than women. In countries like the Netherlands and Spain, men are 69% and 65% more likely to get promoted internally. It’s very clear that women are facing systemic challenges in the workplace, preventing them from achieving full and equal participation in the labour market."

However, all is not lost. The data does show that progress is possible, although it is happening slowly.

Women have been hired into leadership roles in increasing numbers since 2016, and while progress stalled during the pandemic – with the annual share of women hired into leadership positions holding at 35% between 2019 and 2020 – it increased to 36% in 2021 and 37% in 2022. While the numbers are going in the right direction, it is from a low base, and is not changing fast enough to make a meaningful difference.

A systemic response to problematic areas 

While the report highlights problematic areas, it also showcases where improvements can be made. 

WEF says: "We know that the problems are systemic – which means we need a systemic response. Urgent, targeted action is needed to make workplaces fairer and more equal. Governments and businesses need to go further, faster, to help women overcome the imbalance that they face every day. There are three key areas where we must do more: inclusive hiring, internal mobility and flexibility. We need to take a hard look at hiring practices, which must be inclusive and fair. Practical steps include removing bias from job descriptions, including women on interview panels and having representative candidate shortlists. There should be more support for women’s internal mobility and progression. This means creating targeted mentoring and training programmes for women – in particular at the pre-manager level – and increasing awareness about unconscious bias within organizations. And with LinkedIn data showing women are 24% more likely than men to apply to remote roles, we need to make flexible working the norm for everyone if we want a diverse pool of talent. To help people find the job that suits their needs, LinkedIn has introduced dedicated filters for remote, hybrid and on-site roles."

WEF hopes that the report will serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of their policies and practices to build a sustained and robust recovery. The future of our economies, societies and communities depends on it.

Read more about the key findings.

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