Thursday 8th March 2018 is International Women’s Day – a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s an event that’s observed across the globe, with people of all genders taking action to drive change and help move the dial on gender parity.
This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, a movement encouraging individuals to commit to one area for progress for gender parity within their sphere of influence. There are several commitments to sign up to, including challenging stereotypes and bias, influencing the beliefs and actions of others, and celebrating women’s achievements. Take a look at the website here to view the full list of commitments, and to find out how you can make a difference today.
Although positive actions and efforts are being made by so many in this area, a significant gender gap remains. The recent Global Gender Gap Report from The World Economic Forum found that the gender gap has widened for the first time since 2006 – stating that gender parity is ‘shifting into reverse.’ The reported gap stood at 31.7% in 2016 and increased to 32% in 2017. While this doesn’t sound like a particularly significant change, it follows ten years of progress.
It can be difficult to visualise and understand how the gender gap impacts women (and workplaces) when looking at the figures and interpreting annual reports. With this in mind, we took a closer look at three key areas included in the research findings, to find out what the gender gap actually looks like in organisations.
Educational attainment vs. economic participation
The Global Gender Gap Index presented in the report examines the gaps between women and men in four key areas; health, education, economy and politics. Benchmarked across 144 countries, the report further analyses the gender gaps seen in industry talent pools and occupations.
The gender gap in educational attainment is closing (on average, the gap has closed by more than 95%). An equal (or larger) proportion of women are attending universities in 93 countries. Despite this, the report found that the gap in economic participation remains wide; just 58% of the gap has closed.
‘This year’s analysis also reveals gender gaps at the industry level,’ says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of The World Economic Forum in the report’s introduction. ‘And, in particular, highlights that even though qualified women are coming out of the education system, many industries are failing to hire, retain and promote them, losing out on a wealth of capacity.’
This means that women are still less likely to reach the same levels as men in the workplace, despite many having access to the same levels of education. For example, the report found that only 22% of individuals in senior managerial positions are women.
Occupational gender gap
The study found a distinct imbalance in the occupations being entered by both men and women. For example, men are underrepresented in Health and Welfare and Education, while women remain underrepresented in industries including Manufacturing, Engineering and Communication and Technology.
Further to this, the report found that women are less likely to remain in certain industries after they’ve trained. For example, in EU countries, just 20% of women aged 30 and over who have achieved ICT-related degrees decide to stay in the technology industry.
Income and earnings
Although income levels are rising globally, women and men don’t share the same experience. The average pay for men in 2017 was $21,000, while the average pay for women was $12,000.
As the report sets out, the reasons for this difference are numerous. Some of this discrepancy may be explained by the fact that women are much more likely to work part-time hours (due to commitments to care for children and older family members, or both). Women also remain underrepresented at the higher tiers of organisations (positions which command a higher income) and continue to be affected by outdated organisational structures and discrimination.
We know that commitments to care for family or children (alongside the time taken out of work due to pregnancy and maternity leave) can significantly impact women’s opportunities for promotion and development in the workplace. In a report from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, one in five mothers revealed that they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy (or the need to work flexibly) from their colleagues or employers.
In the UK, companies which employ more than 250 people are obliged to report on the disparity between men and women’s pay (by April). By searching on the Gov.uk webpage, anyone can view the existing disparity in these companies.
As of 7th March, just 1609 companies have shared their data (out of approximately 9,000). A recent article describes this delay as strategic; companies are ‘holding off’ to ensure that the ‘scrutiny of their pay decisions will be less intense if they participate in a last-minute data dump.’
Making the case for gender diversity
Many of the findings in the Global Gender Gap report (and the data on pay disparity in UK companies) are all too familiar for many women. Although these takeaways might not come as much of a surprise, they’re continuing to impact the lives of people of all genders in the workplace. At our current rate of progress, The World Economic Forum predicts that it’ll take 217 years before true gender parity is achieved.
Despite the wealth of research on gender disparity at work, it seems the gender gap isn’t recognised by everyone. The 2017 Women in the Workplace report from Lean In and McKinsey and Company found that the bar is still set too low when it comes to gender equality. Their US-based study revealed that almost 50% of men (and a third of women) think women are well represented in companies where only one in ten senior leadership positions is held by a woman. In the same study, 39% of women saw their gender as a potential barrier to a pay rise, promotion or chance to get ahead – while only 15% of men shared this belief.
Understanding and recognising gender disparity in the workplace is integral in beginning to close the gap. Klaus Schwab concludes the 2017 Global Gender Gap report by calling upon all readers to become ‘deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally.’
You can get involved on International Women’s Day by joining the movement and committing to aid progress for gender parity in your workplace. If you’d like to find out more about the studies we referred to in this article, simply click the links below to download the full research reports. You can also find out more about the gender pay gap in your company (and others) via the gov.uk webpage here.