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The World Is on Pace to Reach Gender Equality in 2154, Report Finds

At the current rate, global gender parity is 131 years away, according to a World Economic Forum report released this week that documents meager improvements toward gender equality as the world recovers from pandemic-induced setbacks.

This year’s Global Gender Gap Report, the 17th edition published by the WEF since 2006, benchmarks gender parity in 146 countries across four subindexes: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

The global gender gap score – in other words, the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed – is 68.4% in 2023, an increase of 0.3 percentage points over last year’s number. The small improvement is not enough to speed up the rate of progress, according to the report, so 2154 is still the year of expected global gender parity.

This timeline remains three decades longer than the 100-year time horizon estimated in 2020, illustrating how the COVID-19 pandemic prolonged the gender equality gap around the world.

“Recent years have been marked by major setbacks for gender parity globally, with previous progress disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on women and girls in education and the workforce, followed by economic and geopolitical crises,” WEF’s Managing Director Saadia Zahidi wrote in the report’s preface. “Today, some parts of the world are seeing partial recoveries while others are experiencing deteriorations as new crises unfold.”

For the 14th year in a row, Iceland held the top spot and, with a score of 91.2%, is the only country to close its gender gap by more than 90%. By region, Europe leads the world in gender parity with an average score of 76.3%. One-third of European countries ranked within the top 20 spots globally, and the region held seven of the top 10 spots.

At the opposite end of the equality rankings is Afghanistan, where women’s rights have been quickly stripped away following the resurgence of the Taliban in 2021. With the lowest overall score of 40.5%, the country also places last in each subindex except for health and survival.

In this year’s report, researchers at the WEF focused in particular on gender gaps in the workforce, where disparities between men and women remain significant. While equality in labor-force participation rates increased by one percentage point over the last year (64% vs. 63%), it remains the second-lowest since 2006. Women are also greatly underrepresented in senior leadership positions, STEM jobs and political leadership, according to the report.

“The tepid progress on persistently large gaps documented in this seventeenth edition of the Global Gender Gap Report creates an urgent case for renewed and concerted action,” Zahidi wrote. “Accelerating progress towards gender parity will not only improve outcomes for women and girls but benefit economies and societies more widely, reviving growth, boosting innovation and increasing resilience.”