Closing the global gender gap – whose job is it anyway?

(Credit: Unsplash)

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

Author: Zara Nanu, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Gapsquare


  • This year’s World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap says jobs in increasing demand (data science, AI, cyber, internet of things) are strongly male dominated and have higher annual salaries.
  • Within the list of top ten most equal countries this year, all have equal pay for equal value legislation, and eight have gender pay transparency legislation.
  • So to close the gap, businesses and policy-makers need to look at occupational segregation and career progression.

The release of the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report every year is a reminder of how many centuries away we are from achieving gender parity – and women’s jobs are no exception. This year, the report says we are still 257.2 years away from closing the gender gap in “economic participation” and “opportunity”.

At the same time, some analysts are talking about 2021 as the year self driving cars go mainstream. As a humanity – we are looking at human exploration of Mars as early as 2030. These incredible advancements are possible because of the use of data and tech. So how can we utilize the global gender gap data to achieve similar leaps in progress?

Before we dwell on the data, it’s important to understand that equality does not operate in isolation and is a moving part in the global economy. In my work as the CEO of a global pay gap analytics company, the conversation has long since moved beyond the value of one-off figures into understanding systems that underpin our socio-economic context.

Image: World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021

Despite some progress this year, the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of a woman to that of a man in a similar position) is still approximately 37% and the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) remains close to 51%.

To understand some of these trends, I will be looking at UK data. Every year, companies with 250 employees or more report on their mean and median gaps, and the distribution of their workforce by quartiles, mapping employees in four groups of pay from lowest to highest. This data allows us to look at representation, occupation, and career progression for women.

There are many reasons why these gaps are stubbornly present, varying from equal pay to occupational segregation and women’s progress at work.

Of all of the gap drivers, we are increasingly coming close to creating equal pay for equal value. Within the list of top ten most equal countries this year, all have equal pay legislation. It’s the occupational segregation and career progression that contribute most to these gaps in economic participation and opportunity, and we have to look at them in the context of a changing global labour market.

A recent report on the Future of Jobs by the World Economic Forum highlights the roles and positions which are set to increase or decrease in demand in the next five years. A simple look at these indicates that the jobs on the increase continue to be dominated by men, and they continue to be highly paid.

Image: World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021

Jobs in increasing demand (data science, AI, cyber, internet of things) are strongly male dominated and average £44,500 per year. Jobs in increasing demand that are female dominated (business services and administrative managers, or business development managers), are at the lower end of the pay spectrum averaging about £28,053 per year. So even in roles of growing demand, women are likely to be in occupations that earn just over 60% of what men earn by 2025. If left unaddressed, occupational segregation could be expanding existing gaps in income.

But as I said before, these inequities do not exist on their own, and operate within wider economies and industries. In order to understand how represented women are across these industries, I’ve mapped the occupations based on the Standard Industrial Classification codes.

While cumulatively men continue to make up most of the workforce across these industries, five are moving close to a 50-50 representation.

Occupational segregation could be expanding existing gaps in income. Image: Gapsquare

However, most of the growing occupations and sectors have a clear larger proportion of men in the upper quartiles – even when it comes to administrative support or the retail sector which are dominated by women. The representation of women in these top echelons of businesses varies from 44% in services to 12% in construction or 20% in manufacturing.

How can we ensure career progression for women into the upper quartile? Image: Gapsquare

Not a single one of these industries has a higher representation of women in the upper quartile of the organization.

This data is important from several points of view. For policy-makers at national and international level, this is about creating inclusive policies that prevent large unemployment rates and foster thriving economies. The World Economic Forum report provides interesting insights.

Within the list of top ten most equal countries this year, all have equal pay for equal value legislation, and eight have gender pay transparency legislation.

The availability of UK data (driven by regulation) is making it possible for us to get insights into the trends so that we can utilize them to make the world of work fairer. The Equal Pay International Coalition is developing a guide to global equity legislation right now, and citizens, everywhere, are asking countries to do better.

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. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1377167636979609603&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F03%2Fclosing-the-global-gender-gap-whose-job-is-it%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px



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.

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

For companies, this is about ensuring diverse talent can thrive, reskill and adapt to change. Diversity has long since been proven to foster innovation, and innovation is the central point around which our economy currently moves. Preempting and preventing loss of diversity opens opportunities to innovate the future of work in an inclusive and fair way. To do that we need to start with an understanding of why the future of work is so male dominated, and how we can ensure career progression for women into the upper quartile.

The changing landscape of jobs, coupled with the pandemic has prompted companies to rethink how they are constructing their businesses and why. The current scenario provides us with a unique opportunity to deconstruct many of these jobs and reassemble them in a way that works for everyone. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to be watching people walk around on Mars in the next ten years, I want to enjoy the moment knowing that we live in a world of equality and fair pay. It’s a job for everyone to make it happen.

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