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 the latest World Economic Forum summit, leaders from industry, NGOs and politicians gathered in Davos for an open debate on the global outlook for gender equity. The event followed a recent analysis by the World Economic Forum estimating that closing the global gender gap will take 135 years if current trends continue. The time it will take to achieve gender parity has increased since it was last measured.
Although considerable progress has been made in the areas of education and health, Open Forum panelists agreed that if we are to bring about real change, governments must prioritize political empowerment and opportunities economic.
“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 of women

To make the future more gender inclusive, it will be essential to ensure that there are enough women in leadership positions, especially in politics. Despite this, women held 26% of the 35,500 parliamentary seats and 23% of the more than 3,400 ministerial positions in the 156 countries assessed by the report.
The mayor of Davos, Philipp Wilhelm, told the Open Forum that he had always struggled to persuade women to enter politics. “But if you don’t give up, and if you look for women, you will find women who will apply,” he said.
Affirmative action initiatives he launched in his Swiss municipality resulted in 16 women running for council in recent elections, out of a total of 26 candidates.
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.”
If we want to close the gender gap, women must not only enter politics, but policies and regulations must also change.
Discriminatory laws include those governing maternity leave, which promote women as caretakers and place a lower value on their job duties, as well as laws governing property and inheritance rights, as well as laws governing the safety and traffic in 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 prerogative, participants agreed.

Economic participation of women

With 11% of female occupations at risk of being automated, authorities need to take a targeted approach to retraining women.
“We know that the economic empowerment of women around the world helps to strengthen their status at home. It reduces gender-based violence, it reduces unwanted pregnancies,” Liswood said.
Even within industries, however, income gaps have yet to be closed. According to the panel, the economic conditions of many women have deteriorated in recent years due to the suspension of health care and schooling systems during the epidemic.
In response, Akwei proposed a “smart economy” that promotes the kinds of soft skills that many women learn from a young age. Experts also advocated for legislation that would encourage more young women to pursue studies in STEM fields.
“We have now succeeded in getting the girls to school. But are we engaging them in careers traditionally seen as male-centric? Angela Oduor Lungati, executive director of Ushahidi Inc, asked the room.
From prejudice in a Swiss daycare center to trying to recruit more female entrepreneurs in Brazil, Open Forum participants shared their own stories of attempts and failures to fight gender discrimination, asking panelists how they could close the gender gaps they see on a daily basis.
Mentoring programs and sponsorships, according to the panel, could help bring about these changes. However, as a global community, we cannot go this far without a fundamental mindset adjustment. They claim that a new perspective on women’s social and economic roles will benefit everyone.
“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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