Women still have 202 years to wait for pay equity. Meanwhile, Australia falls behind other countries

Women still have 202 years to wait for pay equity. Meanwhile, Australia falls behind other countries

Once again, Australia has continued to achieve an equal first ranking for women’s educational attainment, but falls well behind much of the world on other measures of gender equality.

And once again, the Global Gender Gap Report has presented an annual reminder of just how slow the pace of change is when it comes to closing global gender gaps — and just how volatile Australia’s own progress can be year to year.

The report, by the World Economic Forum, ranks Australia 39 of 149 countries based on progress towards gender parity across four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.

As for progress on gender equality globally, the WEF says it will take 202 years to close the economic opportunity gap (which covers participation, pay and advancement in the workforce) between men and women at the current rate of change. On average, women internationally earn just 63 per cent of what men earn and no country in the world currently sees women earning as much as men. Just 34 per cent of global managers are female.

When considering all gaps, the report says it will take 108 years to reach parity.

Things are slightly better — but still far from great — when it comes to political representation globally.

It will take 107 years before there are as many female politicians as male politicians globally. Just 17 of the 149 countries assessed currently have a female head of state, while women make up just 18 per cent of ministers and 24 per cent of parliamentarians globally.

No prizes for guessing the most gender equal countries in the world: Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. New Zealand likewise continues to excel, and is now ranked in seventh place.

Australia has bounced around the rankings over the past 12 years, achieving a respectable 15th place back in 2006, but ranking 35th in 2017 and 46th in 2016.

In 2018, Australia ranks 46th for economic participation and opportunity, and 49th for political empowerment. The report authors say Australia has seen a widening of the gender gap when it comes to legislators, senior officials, managers and wage equality.

Why does all this matter? As Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the WEF, puts it: “The equal contribution of women and men in this process of deep economic and societal transformation is critical. More than ever, societies cannot afford to lose out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity.”

And that couldn’t be more true in artificial intelligence, which the WEF has made an area of focus in 2018. Working with LinkedIn, it found that just 22 per cent of AI professionals globally are female — a 72 per cent gender gap that hasn’t budged in recent years.

In Australia, the figure is slightly better, but still less than a quarter (24 per cent) of our professionals with skills in AI are female.

According to the authors, the gender gap in AI could see other broader gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity expand. Innovation and inclusion in the field will likely be limited given those involved are overwhelmingly male.


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