The World Economic Forum has been measuring and reporting on gender inequality since 2006 and it is taking far too long to close the gender gap. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, based on current trends it will take another 99.5 years to attain equality between men and women in every sphere: work, the economy, family, education, and health. If we consider the gender pay gap alone, it will take 257 years: on average around the world women still earn 13-15% less than men, and the trend is worsening.
While some countries have historically ranked high on parity (Iceland, Norway and Finland are best in class worldwide), the general picture is discouraging. Though there have been some improvements: the 2018 forecast was that closing the gap would take 108 years and today’s figure is certainly lower. But it is not enough.
Whereas gender parity in education has been attained in 40 of the 153 countries benchmarked, and it will take just 12 years to close the gap globally according to the report, as far as political representation is concerned the numbers are still low with just 25.2% of women in parliament globally, and 21.2% holding the role of minister. While the increasing political empowerment of women has also led to an increase in the number of women in management roles in the business
world, female participation in the overall labour market is stalling and financial disparities have increased.
The economic aspect is where women are at the greatest disadvantage with 57.8% gender parity. This is “the only dimension where progress has regressed,” says the World Economic Forum. The report outlines three primary reasons for this: women have greater representation in roles that are being automated; not enough women are entering professions where wage growth is the most pronounced (most obviously, but not exclusively, technology), and women face the perennial problem of insufficient care infrastructure and access to capital.
The economic aspect is where women are at the greatest disadvantage with 57.8% gender parity. This is “the only dimension where progress has regressed
There is clearly no easy solution to these problems. But to reverse the trend, for the benefit not just of women themselves but for the whole of humanity, something has to be done. To address the problem, the World Economic Forum has launched a project called “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators” that aims to provide practical tools to actively tackle the most serious gap – the economic one – and accelerate change.
The project has four key focus areas: place gender parity at the centre of the post COVID-19 world of work, close gender gaps in remuneration between and within sectors, enable women's participation in the labour force, and advance more women into management and leadership positions. These goals will be achieved by creating public-private partnerships that the various countries involved will drive forward under the leadership of the Forum.
To date, accelerators have been launched in a number of countries: Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, Egypt and France. The project consists of a number of initiatives. National Level Action will bring together two government ministers, between two and four business leaders, and between 50 and 100 of the largest employers in each country. The model lasts three years and will develop local needs-based action plans built on the global World Economic Forum model.
The Global Learning Network involves partnering with other more advanced countries through the exchange of insights and experience. The Closing the Gender Gap Playbook, a guide for decision-makers and companies that aims to provide the necessary tools and resources to introduce action plans and also monitor progress.
The goal of these accelerators is to set concrete, quantifiable targets for companies through business commitments to increase employment opportunities and accelerate the attainment of gender parity at work.
Many companies in Italy have introduced their own procedures to advance and support female inclusion in the workforce
Here are a few examples. In Chile in addition to specific legislation on equal pay, agreements have also been made with temporary employment agencies and headhunters with the aim of increasing the number of women on boards and in senior management roles, and additionally certification is available for those companies adopting gender parity practices.
In Argentina, companies can join a pact which provides a confidential internal survey on a company’s status in terms of gender equality, the development of a bespoke action plan by a technical team to correct existing imbalances, and finally certification which qualifies the company for tax benefits. Similar plans are being introduced in Colombia and Panama.
And what about Italy? Although it is not on the list of countries where accelerators have been introduced (it is never too late to start), the country’s institutions have taken some steps forward. Among them are the proposed legislation to set up a statistical observatory on gender parity, an extraordinary plan for female employment, and an amendment to the ‘Decreto Rilancio’ (relaunch decree) to introduces indices to measure female inclusion in companies. Additionally, one of the proposals developed by the task force “Donne per un nuovo Rinascimento” (Women for a new Renaissance) championed by the Minister for Equal Opportunities and Families Elena Bonetti, is the idea of certification for those companies committed to ensuring gender parity.
Many companies in Italy have introduced their own procedures to advance and support female inclusion in the workforce. One such example is Pirelli where among other initiatives, they have created the role of Equal Opportunity Manager, a kind of guarantor of equal opportunities. Valore D, the first association of companies actively engaged in advancing gender parity, today has 217 members.
However, the connection that the World Economic Forum proposes between the public and private sectors and between national and international organisations is still missing. It is clear to everyone that female participation in the workforce and closing the gender gap in the economic sphere and in the world of work are of prime importance for Italy’s recovery, way beyond the pandemic . Now would be a really good time to launch an accelerator in Italy too.