From books to bikes: 4 unexpected gender gaps

bikes

(Coen van den Broek, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Gender parity will not be attained for almost 100 years, according to the latest Global Gender Gap Report.
  • Outside of well-known areas such as pay, there are some surprising gaps.
  • These include cycling, reading and heart and kidney treatment.

Equality between the sexes is a long way off. So far off, in fact, that nobody reading this is likely to see it achieved in their lifetime. That’s the sobering conclusion of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.

The report looks at political, economic and social markers, everything from access to education to involvement in running businesses. But there are gender gaps in a variety of other areas, too – from exercise to reading. Here are five surprising examples.

1. Cycling

Report on the likelihood to commute among cyclists
Denmark stands out as a female-friendly cycling destination.
Image: Strava

Women are less likely to cycle to work than men, according to data released by exercise app Strava.

Globally, men are 6.7% more likely than women to hop on two wheels for their daily commute. In the US, that gap stands at 17.4% in men’s favour, while in the UK it is 12%. If you want to find a developed country where female cyclists are in the majority, you’ll need to head to Denmark.

It’s often referred to as the world’s most cycle-friendly country, and in Denmark the cycling gender gap is reversed – women are 24.4% more likely to commute via bike there than men.

2. Heart health

If you’re a woman, you face a disproportionate risk from a heart attack, according the British Heart Foundation, a UK charity. In the UK, women fare worse than men “at every stage of their heart attack experience” because the disease is often seen as a male problem. This despite the fact that twice as many women in the country die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer.

Looking at everything from the latest evidence to patient stories, the organization found that women delay seeking medical help for the issue, which can reduce the chances of survival; are 50% more likely to receive a wrong initial diagnosis; and are less likely to receive standard treatments. Risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are often more deadly for women, too.

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 Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank.

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.

France has become the first G20 country to launch a Gender Gap Accelerator, signalling that developed economies are also playing an important role in spearheading this approach to closing the gender gap.

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 Task Force 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 Task Force you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

3. Kidney treatment

Sex and the incidence and prevelance of kidney replacement therapy
Inequality between men and women with kidney replacement therapy
Image: ERA-EDTA Registry

More men than women undergo kidney replacement therapy (KRT), despite a larger number of women being affected by chronic kidney disease. That’s one of the conclusions of the ERA-EDTA Registry, a European body that collects and monitors data on treatment and therapy for kidney problems.

The Registry’s data was obtained from nine countries – tracking 230,378 patients who had received KRT over the period 1965–2015 – and analyzed by a team of academics. “Since the beginning of KRT programs reporting to the ERA-EDTA Registry since the 1960s, fewer women than men have received KRT. The relative difference between men and women initiating and undergoing KRT has remained consistent over the last five decades and in all studied countries,” the researchers concluded.

4. Reading

A YouGov report on the difference between male and female readers.
A YouGov survey found women are more avid readers than men.
Image: YouGov

Women generally read more books than men, according to a YouGov poll of almost 9,000 adults in the US.

When asked how many books they read per year, only 2% of men said they read more than 50 books in a year, compared with 9% of women.

At the opposite end of the scale, men were in the lead – 14% of men said they don’t read books at all, compared with 10% of women.

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