135: The number of years it will take to achieve gender parity, unless progress accelerates, WEF panel

Angela Oduor Lungati, Executive Director, Ushahidi, South Africa, speaking on gender equality at the World Economic Forum in Davos, May 25, 2022. World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser

Angela Oduor Lungati, Executive Director, Ushahidi, South Africa, speaking on gender equality at the World Economic Forum in Davos, May 25, 2022. World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser

  • The number of years it will take to achieve gender parity has risen to 135, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.
  • At an Open Forum session in Davos, leaders and changemakers met to discuss the report and come together on what is needed to drive change.
  • Anti-discrimination laws, access to opportunities, improved economic and social life, and political empowerment will all be essential in the fight to end gender inequality.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

At an Open Forum session in Davos, leaders from industry, NGOs and politicians came together to discuss global perspectives on gender equity.

The session came on the heels of a recent report by the World Economic Forum which indicates that it will take 135 years to close the global gender gap if we continue to move forward at the current pace. The gap, which measures how long it will take to achieve gender parity, has widened since it was last recorded.

While progress has been made in the areas of education and health, Open Forum panelists agreed that policymakers must prioritize political empowerment and economic opportunity if we are truly to make progress.

“There was a strong belief that if we closed the health gaps, if we closed the education gaps, then naturally the economic and political gaps would close – it turns out there’s nothing natural to that,” Laura Liswood, general secretary of the Council of Global Women Leaders, told attendees in Davos.

Affirmative action mechanisms have been useful in bringing historically marginalized groups into government and business. But “they definitely have an upgrade problem,” Liswood said. “You can bring them in, but for some reason you can’t bring them up. [the ladder].”

Political empowerment

Ensuring that there are enough women in leadership positions, especially in politics, will prove key to making the future more gender inclusive. Yet in 156 countries surveyed by the report, women accounted for 26% of some 35,500 parliamentary seats and around 23% of more than 3,400 ministers worldwide.

Philipp Wilhelm, mayor of Davos, told the Open Forum that he had always had a harder time motivating women to take on political roles. “But if you don’t give up, and if you look for women, you will find women who [become a] candidate,” he said.

The adoption of positive measures in her Swiss municipality enabled 16 women out of a total of 26 candidates to stand in the recent municipal elections.

However, as Oakland Hub panelist, poet and outgoing curator Samantha Akwei said, “You can put a woman in a position of power, but that doesn’t mean she has power.”

Women must not only enter politics, but policies and laws must also change if we are to reduce the gender divide.

Discriminatory laws include those relating to maternity leave that prioritize women as caregivers and place less value on their role in the workplace, as well as laws on property and inheritance rights, security and mobility around the world.

“There are still over 100 countries that have discriminatory laws in place around economic participation,” Liswood said. “From the hours you can work out to the amount of weight you can lift, there are all kinds of examples that have subtle impacts.”

Improving economic opportunities and participation is a priority, participants agreed.

Economic participation

With 11% of jobs currently held by women at risk of automation, policymakers need to take a targeted approach to reskilling women.

“We know that economic empowerment of women around the world helps strengthen their status in a household. It reduces gender-based violence, it reduces unwanted pregnancies,” Liswood said.

But even income disparities within industries are still not closed. And with the suspension of healthcare and education systems during the pandemic, the economic situation of many women has deteriorated in recent years, the panel heard.

In response, Akwei argued for a “wisdom economy” that champions the kinds of soft skills taught to many women from a young age. Experts have also called for policies that encourage more young girls to aspire to STEM careers.

“We have now succeeded in getting girls into school. But are we directing them towards careers traditionally considered male-centric?” Angela Oduor Lungati, executive director of Ushahidi Inc, asked the room.

From confronting discrimination in child care centers in Switzerland to trying to recruit more women entrepreneurs in Brazil, members of the Open Forum audience told their own stories of trials and tribulations. failures in the fight against gender discrimination, asking panelists how they could end the gender gaps they witness today. -today.

Mentoring programs and sponsorships could contribute to some extent to these changes, the panel said. But we cannot go this far as a global community without a fundamental shift in mindset. A new framework around women’s social and economic roles is one that will benefit everyone, they said.

“Gender equality is for all genders,” Liswood said. “Because if it’s unequal for some women, it’s unequal for some men, your institutions are unequal in some way.” She added that while privilege may vary depending on who you are, “we all need to deal better with gender parity issues – it’s not a zero-sum game.

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