UK falls to 21st place in global gender equality ranking

A new global index shows the UK is losing ground to other countries in the move towards greater gender equality.

Gender Equality


The UK has fallen from 15th place in 2018 to 21st in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index rankings.

Iceland, Norway and Finland top the index of 153 countries. In Western Europe out of 22 countries the UK ranks 12th.

The 2020 index is ranked according to four broad categories as well as an overall category ranking. The UK is one of only 48 countries which have not increased their standing in this year’s index.

The UK ranks 38th for educational attainment of women behind the Philippines, 58th for economic participation and opportunity [including the gender pay gap and the progression gap], 112th for health and survival and 20th for political empowerment [the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making]. It has fallen in its score for educational attainment and health and survival since 2006. The UK’s ranking was hampered by wage gaps between men and women, in part due to the high number of women working part time in the UK, by underrepresentation of women in politics and by the gender pay gap. Other areas where there are big gaps between men and women include STEM education and board representation.

STEM gender issues

STEM representation is a big issue in the report.  The figures for the UK show an underrrepresentation of women in STEM-related professions, such as cloud computing where they account for just 9% of professionals. The World Economic Forum has developed a Platform for Shaping the New Economy and Society. It aims to provide a solution through the “Hardwiring Gender Parity into the Future of Work” initiative,  starting with a business commitment framework.

The framework aims to ensure that women are equally represented in all phases of the talent pipeline in emerging roles by asking companies to: identify their top five emerging high-growth roles,including high-volume roles and leadership roles; recruit 50% female talent into their top five emerging high-growth roles by 2022, across all seniority levels; and develop a strong gender-equal reward system by 2022 that addresses unconscious bias and includes equal pay and equal opportunities.The initiative is starting with a target of 50 pioneering companies in 2020. It aims to expand in the future to cover a variety of professions and skills, engage a wider range of global and local companies and better connect supply and demand side initiatives.

Overall the index says that, at the current pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 54 years in Western Europe, 59 years in Latin America and the Caribbean, 71 and a half years in South Asia, 95 years in Sub Saharan Africa, 107 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 140 years in the Middle East and North Africa, 151 years in North America and 163 years in East Asia and the Pacific.

The report states: “While the increased speed in some regions has reduced the estimated time to close gender gaps,progress remains slow and uneven across countries and regions. Policy-makers and other stakeholders need to further adopt policies and practices to accelerate this process going forward.”

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