Global Challenge 11

Challenge 11. How can the changing status of women help improve the human condition?

Brief Overview

Empowerment of women has been one of the strongest drivers of social evolution over the past century and is acknowledged as essential for addressing all the global challenges facing humanity. Gender equity has entered the global consciousness and is guaranteed by the constitution of 84% of the world’s nations, while “the international women’s bill of rights” (CEDAW) has been ratified by all but seven countries. Women’s right to vote is virtually universal. Women account for 25.58% of the membership of national legislative bodies in 2021: an increase from 12% in 1997, and 52 nations have had a woman head of state in the past 50 years. Nevertheless, efforts have to increase if we want to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030, as more than 50% of 10-year-olds live today in countries with high levels of gender inequality.

Although women contribute 52% of global work, their labor market participation rate is only 49% compared with 76% for men and they earn up to 35% less than men do. Women compose about 15% of corporate board seats worldwide, an increase of 54% since 2010, yet they own less tha2 20% of the land while nearly half of the agricultural workforce. Persistent discriminatory social structures have to be challenged to make progress in the future. Yet Oxfam notes that if a women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, in 15 major developing economies income per capita would rise by 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030. However, at current rate of progress, in the G20 countries it would take another 75 years to achieve equal pay for equal work. And Covid has made it worse with lowered wages and increased workloads for women.

Women are more likely than men to be “solopreneurs,” creating new forms of work, although lack of adequate social safety net regimes put an extra burden on them. Creating equal opportunities for women would unleash creativity and foster entrepreneurship, mostly because the education gap has been generally closed and, in some countries, women outperform men in post-secondary education. The conversation on the status of women needs to transition from victimhood into modern-day powerhouse.

Since women drive 70–80% of all consumer purchasing, and given women’s educational responsibilities within the family, their education in responsible consumption could change patterns and address some of the other challenges facing humanity.

While the health gender gap is generally closing, recognizing women’s reproductive rights and providing effective family planning are yet to be guaranteed around the world. Women continue to be treated as second-class citizens, and barbarian extremist practices such as female genital mutilation traumatizes millions of girls each year, with an additional 86 million potential victims by 2030. Violence against women is the most under-reported crime worldwide, continuing to be perpetrated with impunity. Although 119 countries have laws that penalize domestic violence, almost 35% of women experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and over 600 million women live in 15 countries where domestic violence is still not a crime.

However, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back. The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, The Millennium Project study on changing stereotypes concluded that slow but massive shifts in gender stereotypes will occur over the next few decades. (See “Changing Gender Stereotypes” in Research section of GFIS.)

Actions to Address Global Challenge 11:

  • Mothers should use their educational role in the family to assertively nurture gender equality and should be supported by their families, communities, and the media to do this.
  • Make policies to change social structures that help women meet the demands of their careers and family responsibilities.
  • Encourage girls’ education, especially in STEM education and innovation to reach income parity soon.
  • Where possible, ensure free (or employer-paid) preschool and child care.
  • Equal remuneration for work of equal value has to be integrated into law.
  • Pursue government policies that encourage female university graduates to start their own businesses.
  • Occupational and sectoral segregation should be eliminated by valuing care work similarly to other professional work, thus also addressing gender stereotyping.
  • Popularize mobile-phone apps that instantly report violence to police and follows up on investigation and prosecution.
  • Make international aid programs conditional on respect for women’s rights, enforcement of treaties protecting women rights, and prosecution.
  • Apply sanctions for non-compliance on international treaties on women’s rights.
  • Increase women’s participation in peace-building negotiations and foreign aid administration.
  • Create and implement laws against treating females as second-class citizens, violence against women, patriarchal attitudes, and barbarian practices such as female genital mutilation and “honor killings.”
  • There should be no age limit for prosecution for violence and rape.
  • Ensure a woman’s rights to land ownership and financing.
  • Fight gender stereotyping in the media and increase the percent of women executives in journalism.
  • Add martial arts and other forms of self-defense in elementary and secondary schools’ physical education classes for girls, not only for self-defense but also as a deterrence policy.
  • Improve data on the legal and economic implications for women and violence against women.
Figure 1.11 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments
(% of members)
Source: IPU, with The Millennium Project compilation and forecast
Short Overview and Regional Considerations
Empowerment of women has been one of the strongest drivers of social evolution over the past century and is acknowledged as essential for addressing all the global challenges facing humanity. Women are increasingly equal partners in social, political and economic decision-making, contributing their views and demanding accountability. Gender equality is an irreversible trend. According to UN, 143 countries have guaranteed gender equality between men and women in their constitution. Improvements in women’s civil and political rights have been an important catalyst for sustained progress over the past decades, and much progress has been made in the political rights. Nevertheless, old patriarchal structures and barbarian extremist practices condemned by citizens and authorities still exist.
Short Overview
Political improvements of women’s status have been made:
  • The percentage of women in national parliaments has more than doubled over the past two decades. In 2017, women account for 23.5% of parliaments worldwide, compared to 11.3%in 1995
  • In 47 countries, the rate of women legislators is over 30% (as of July 2017)
  • 10 womenserve as Heads of State and 9 serve as Head of government (as of January 2017)
  • An increasing number of countries and parties have quotas to promote women’s political participation
However, there are broad range of issues and problems must be challenged including:
  • 38 Stateshave parliaments with less than 10% women, including 4 chambers with no women at all (as of 2016)
  • Even though the percentage of women has doubled in the last 20 years, only around 22% of legislators are women today; women’s leadership and political participation are still restricted
  • In spite of efforts to enhance women’s political participation, some authorities restrain such participation based on their gender discrimination
    • Saudi Arabia: Women weren’t given suffrage until the 2015 election. They exercised their right to vote for the first time and 38 women councils were elected, but authorities ordered that the councils be segregated by gender. Women have to sit in separate rooms and participate only by video link
  • Formal types of legal barriers to women’s political participation are not easily found. In practice, however, practical obstacles to women’s active participation are often found because of male dominated culture in politics
  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or nonpartner sexual violence
Not just in politics, issues about status of women exist in diverse aspects. The World Bank found that women made up some 40%of the global labor force. However, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2016 by World Economic Forum:
  • On average, only 59% of the economic participation gap has been closed
  • About 23% of the political gap has slowly improved
  • Out of the 142 countries covered by the report both this year (2016) and last year (2015), 68 countries have increased their overall gender gap score compared to last year, while 74 have seen it decreased
Gender wage gap is one of the worldwide problems based on gender discrimination. OECD defines the wage gap as a difference between median earnings of men and women relative to median earnings of men.Its 2017 data indicates that the gender wage gap of the United States was 18.1%. Nations with the largest wage gap were Korea (36.7%), Ethiopia (28.3%), and Japan (25.7%). Oxfam also remarks that if women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, in 15 major developing economies, income per capita would rise by 14% by 2020 and 20% by 2030. Closing the male-female employment gap could boost GDP in the U.S. by 9%, in the euro zone by 13%, and in Japan by 16%.
The Social Institutions and Gender Index compiled by OECD — which considers the root causes of gender inequality, discriminatory laws and social norms — shows that countries with better SIGI scores have close to 50% women participation in paid jobs, while in countries with high discrimination, female employment is just above 20%. The SIGI found that despite positive steps, discriminatory social structures continue to persist:
  • Out of the 111 countries assessed over the past decade, 105 have made progress in closing the gender gap
  • 142 countries failed to close the gender gap
  • The gaps for health and educational attainment were closed by 96% and 94%
  • Only 60% of economic participation gap and 21% of the global political empowerment gap were closed (as of 2014)
  • Out of the 121 countries assessed, 86 still have discriminatory inheritance laws or practices
  • Women hold only 15% of land titles; 20% of women have no adequate access to family planning
Economic empowerment: Gender equity is strongly supported not only by moral rightness, but also by policies and social structures to guarantee women’s right in private sectors.Women’s access to leadership is still obstructed by the ever-present “ceiling” and the share of women in executive roles remains significantly unequal. In the 2016 report, OECD notes that:
  • Women make up 41% of the overall representation of the workforce globally
  • However, the number of women on corporate boards has increased only 1% per year since 2004 (as of 2015)
  • Women only account for 12% of board members among the world’s largest companies
  • Women represent less than 5% of S&P 500 companies’ CEOs and hold less than 25% of senior management roles
Although some 60% of the countries have equal pay laws and much progress has been accomplished in recent years, the gender income gap and the glass ceiling persist around the world:
  • In the 2017 report, ILO remarks that women’s hourly earnings can be as little as 60% of men’s hourly earnings (as of 2016)
  • The report also notes that the gender wage gap is particularly magnified among the highest paid occupations, such as managers and CEOs: nearly 40%
  • The Global Gender Gap Index indicates that the gender income gap is between 72% in high-income countries to 64% in lower-middle income ones, with most progress, 5% since 2006, made by the low income countries, that had a 67% gender income gap
Beyond the issue of women’s participation in labour market, status of women is also threaten by modern slavery. ILO estimates that among 21 million victims of forced labor, 11.4 million are women and girls. Almost 19 million people are exploited by private individuals or enterprises, including 4.5 million victims of forced sexual exploitation. According to the U.S. State Department, around 800,000 people are trafficked annually over the borders and 80%are women and children.
Almost 50% of the world’s working women are in vulnerable employment, often lacking legal and economic protection. Women also devote 1 to 3 hours a day to housework more than men; 2 to 10 times a day to care (for children, elderly, and the sick). Better policies and social structures are needed to help women harmonize the demands of their careers with their family responsibilities. Ensuring their basic employment rights, as well as services such as free (or employer-paid) preschools and child care should be integral parts of strategies to improve the status of women.
Since patriarchal structures persist and collective responsibility is generally not yet part of family customs, in most cases women’s economic roles are added to her traditional housework. Despite some improvements over the past 50 years, daily and virtually all over the world women spend more time on unpaid work at home; women were doing 40% more than men on average. Studies show that mostly in developed countries, many mothers of young children work by necessity to achieve and maintain a middle-class living standard that demands two incomes. This adds an extra burden on women.
About 70% of people living in poverty are women, most of them in rural areas. In developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43% of the agricultural labor force. Nevertheless, less than 20% of the landholders are women and they have limited access to inputs, seeds, and agricultural extension services. The vast majority of micro loans go to poor women whose businesses are often too small to significantly improve their living standards; they need the entrepreneurial talent and business skills to scale up the business to more significantly affect income.Of the 1.6 billion people still lacking access to basic energy services, 70% are women. Closing the rural gender gap could raise agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4%, improving food security and reducing the number of undernourished people by 100–150 million. Since 76% of the extreme poor live in rural areas, it would be one of efficient ways to reduce poverty and improve living standards of the many.
Education: The gender gap has significantly narrowed in areas of education in the past two decades. Remarkable improvements have been made since the number of girls and women’s enrollment at all levels of education has increased. However, despite important gains:
  • According to World’s Women Report, 58 million children of primary school age are out of school worldwide; more than 50% of these are girls
  • Women are underrepresented in fields related to science, engineering, manufacturing and construction
  • Estimated 781 million people aged 15 and over remain illiterate; 496 million are women
  • Illiteracy rates are highest among older people and are higher among women than men
  • More than 800 million women lack skills necessary for improving their economic opportunity
The health gender gap: The health gap between male and female is also closing. However, women are still facing health inequities due to their specific needs around reproductive health care. Women living in poor and marginalized areas are especially suffering serious health consequences:
  • Since 1990, maternal mortality worldwide has been reduced by 44%, but WHO remarks that around 830 women die per day because of preventable complications related to pregnancy or childbirth (as of November 2016)
  • 99% of maternal mortality deaths occur in developing countries; more than half of such deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia
  • In 2015, a ratio of all maternal deaths was 239 per 100,000 live births in developing countries, whereas 12 per 100,000 in developed countries
  • The main reasons of the deaths, nearly 75%, were severe bleeding, infections, high-blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion
  • At least 2 million women and girls suffered obstetric fistula (as of 2015)
Such maternal mortality and fatal diseases occur because of poverty and an inadequate access to health services:
  • WaterAidreports that 1 in 3 women and girls in urban slums do not have access to toilets, while unsafe or open toilets have increased the risks of physical and sexual violence
  • Unsafe abortion and an insufficient provision of contraceptives threaten women’s health. According to WEF, 885 million women of reproductive age living in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy (as of 2017)
    • 59 million use unreliable traditional methods to prevent pregnancy; a further 155 million use no method of contraception at all
    • If all women who want to avoid unintentional pregnancies receive modern contraception, maternal deaths would fall dramatically, from the currently estimated 308,000 to 84,000 per year
Female genital mutilation (FGM) also traumatizes around 3 million girls every year. The procedures cause serious infections and increase risk of newborn deaths. WHO estimates that 200 million women and girls had already become victims of FGM as of 2017. Most of the procedures are committed as harmful traditions in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia. The UN Population Fund notes that if current trends persist, 86 million young girls who born between 2010-2015 will be at risk of being cut by 2030. To curb this situation, around 8,000 communities have abandoned FGM over the past few years, and almost 3,000 religious leaders have urged people to end FGM worldwide.
Violence: Violence against women still exist. Although 119 countries have laws that penalize domestic violence:
  • According to UN, almost 35% of women experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime
  • Most of the violence is committed by intimate partner:
    • More than 30% of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner
    • Around 38% of murders of women are committed by male intimate partner (as of November 2016)
  • In 15 countries, domestic violence is still legal; 85% of victims are women (as of May 2017)
  • The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014remarks that in the 133 countries surveyed (representing 88% of world’s population):
    • 48% of women who were injured due to violence needed health care, but only 36% sought it
    • A rate of childhood sexual abuse marked differences by sex; 18% of girls have experienced the abuse, compared to 7% of boys
The UN initiative COMMIT aims to encourage countries to adopt new policies to end violence against women. In addition, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women has awarded $129 million to 463 initiatives in 139 countries and territories since 1996.
UNSCR 1325 addresses the impact of war on women and women’s active participation in peace-building, as do the 15% of UN post-conflict budgets allocated to women. However, the UN warns about an increased violation of women’s right by using then as a weapon, particularly, an increased use of women and children in suicide attacks. UNICEF reports that in Nigeria, at least 75% of the suicide attacks are thought to having been carried out by women and children. The number of such incidents has risen; 27 incidents reported as of mid-May 2015, compared to a total 26 in 2014. Additionally, atrocities against women have been carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries, as well as by other Islamist extremists around the world (stoning, jailing, acid, and other attacks). The application of the archaic sharia law has been continued with impunity. Sexual violence is even more frequent in countries at war or in a post-conflict period, perpetrated by armed forces and rebel groups, militants. One of the most critical approaches to reduce such violence and discrimination against women would be to encourage women’s role in peace-building such as negotiations and foreign aid administration.
Potential instruments:
  • A panoply of international treaties and dedicated UN organizations are vigorously advancing women’s rights, but more needs to be done for enforcement.
  • Infringements on women’s rights should be subject to prosecution and international sanctions, while aid programs should be conditioned by respect of gender equity.
  • Mothers should use their educational role in the family to assertively nurture gender equality.
  • School systems should consider teaching martial arts and other forms of self-defense in physical education classes for girls, not only for self-defense but also as a deterrence policy.
  • Traditional media should refrain from gender stereotyping, and women should be better represented in journalism top management positions.
  • Use of mobile-phone-internet-based sites that are increasingly raising global awareness on violence against women should be encouraged and paid more attention to by law-makers and law enforcement organizations. Apps are being created to report violence, create alerts, plot rape maps, and handle calls for help (e.g. SafecityWomen Under Siege Project, and Harrass Map). A global survey shows that mobile phones make 93% of women feel safer and 85% more independent, while for 41% they increased economic opportunities.
A recent The Millennium Project study on changing stereotypes concluded that slow but massive shifts in gender stereotypes will occur over the next few decades. (See “Changing Gender Stereotypes” in ‘Research’ section)
Measure progress: Challenge 11 is an on-going issue. It will be seriously addressed more than now when gender-discriminatory laws are gone, when discrimination and violence against women are prosecuted, when the goal of at least 30% women’s representation in national legislatures is achieved in all countries, and when development strategies include gender equity throughout all sectors.
Regional Considerations
Asia and Oceania: High incomes and education levels in countries like Japan start to challenge old family structures. Japan set a goal to increase the share of women in senior leadership positions from the current 9% to 30% by 2020, considering that its GDP could grow by 16% if women would participate in the economy equally to men. Together with the Republic of Korea (where women hold 10% of leadership positions), they launched the Gender Parity Task Force to improve women’s career opportunities. According to 2014 Global Gender Gap report, Japan ranks 104th and the Republic of Korea 117th. The region’s best performers are Philippines–ranked 9th, followed by New Zealand ( 3) and Australia (24), while the worst performers are Iran (137) and Pakistan (141). The East Asia and Pacific region has nearly closed enrollment gaps between girls and boys in primary, secondary, and tertiary education, with girls even outperforming boys in some countries. However, in South Asia, only Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have reached gender parity in primary school education, reports UNESCO.
Although all countries of South Asia have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, UNDP reports that gender inequality causes a 60.1% loss in human development in the region, while ActionAid estimates that closing the wage and employment gaps would mean a 73% income gain valued at some $4.3 trillion. WHO notes that in the region occur about 30% of the world’s maternal deaths, the second highest globally. Mainly due to the dual legal civil and religious systems in many parts of Asia early and forced marriage, violence, discrimination with respect to inheritance and land ownership, dowry issues and honor killings continue to be prevalent and unpunished. In Afghanistan, the criminal law prevents prosecutions for domestic violence, forced and child marriage, and there were calls to overturn the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women for being counter to Islam. The project “Engaging Young Men through Social Media for the Prevention of Violence against Women” aims to end gender-based violence in Asia and the Pacific by using social media.
Son bias continues to be of concern in many countries of the region; India’s 2011 census found a child sex-ratios of only 914 females for 1,000 males. India is ranked 114 by the GGI, but with more than a million Indian women now members of panchayats (local village councils), unethical practices against women are expected to change. China‘s one-child policy worked to reduce fertility rate, but the Communist Party leadership ended the policy and allowed married couples to have two children.
Female representation in legislatures is 19.4% for Asia, and 17.4% for the Pacific as of 2017. After adopting the political quota system, the share of women in the parliaments of Central Asian countries increased from none to over 20%, although they still have to struggle with the reminiscent patriarchal structures.
Middle East and North Africa: Women’s rights in the MENA region remains critical and even worsening in some countries with the rise of religious extremism and expanded enforcement of the Sharia law. All countries of the region (except for Israel) are ranked among the worst 20 by the Global Gender Gap Index 2014. 11 countries have closed less than 50% of the economic participation and opportunity gap, while ActionAid estimates that closing the wage and employment gaps would mean an over 366% (the highest by far of any other regions) income gain to women, valued at some $1.1 trillion. ILO notes that the region’s women are much more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment — at a rate of 55% versus 32% in North Africa and 42% versus 27% in the Middle East. Women representation in legislatures remains the lowest in the world, with 10 countries closing less than 10% of the political empowerment gender gap; as of July 2017, Qatar has no women parliamentarians at all, and Oman has only one each. Iran, ranked 137 by the GGGI, although with a good health and education attainment score, has a relatively low economic and poor political participation of women; only 3 out of 100 parliamentarians are women, but there are effortsto introduce a 30% quota from 2016. Segregation in Saudi Arabia is also disastrous; even though there are 20 parliamentarians, but authorities ordered that the councils be segregated by gender. Women have to sit in separate rooms and participate only by video link. It ranked 130th by the GGGI,
Stoning to death is still used as a legal form of punishment for “adultery” in several Muslim countries, and the purdah(female seclusion) and namus (virtue) customs persist in many Arab regions. Sexual harassment, rape, and sexual violence by IS and other extremist groups and security forces across the region has reached intolerable levels. As of 2017, more than 200 million girls and women have been victims of genital mutilation/cutting in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. However, these are increasingly being challenged by empowered women, the outcry of the global society and women-rights icons such as Malala Yousafzai. In the Arab MENA region, philosophical, ethnic, and ethical assumptions have to change in order to make possible the structural transformations needed to improve the status of women. The international community could use sanctions and conditioned-aid, conditioned-partnership in international organizations and business partnerships to help accelerate the long-due change. Israel(ranked 65) is the best performing country in the region and has closed over 70% of the gender gap.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa became the first woman Chairperson of the African Union Commission. In sub-Saharan Africa, female representation is 23.5% in legislatures, while Rwanda has a women-majority parliament. Three sub-Saharan African countries are ranked among the top 20 by the 2014 Global Gender Gap Index: Rwanda (7), Burundi (17), and South Africa (18) and 13 out of the 28 countries assessed have closed over 70% of the gander gap. This is mainly due to the increased participation of women in the workforce, although generally, these are in low-skilled and low-paying jobs. ILO notes that women have a nearly 85% likelihood to be in vulnerable employment versus 70% for male. Adult female labor force participation is expected to slightly increase from almost 72% in 2014 to 72.4% in 2018, yet lower than their male counterparts, which is estimated at 87.7% and almost 89% respectively. ActionAid shows that closing the wage and employment gender gap would mean an 121% income increase for women, valued at some $0.7 trillion. Although women represent 52% of the agricultural labor force, they have little or no land ownership and are further affected by increasing land-grabbing by foreign companies or countries. Low levels of education and qualification makes it very difficult for the region as a whole and for women specifically to escape the poverty vulnerability cycle.
Presently, the average fertility rate in the region is 5.1 and is not expected to drop below 3 by mid-century. Even though the global maternal mortality ratio has been declined greatly, with 55% of the about 800 maternal deaths per day occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. The region has the world’s highest maternal mortality, with some countries’ rates as high as 1,000 death per 100,000 live births. In Kenya, at every two hours a woman dies in childbirth; that’s 4,400 death per year, most of them preventable. According to Save the Children, Niger is the worst country in which to be a mother. UNICEF reports that 1 in 11 children born in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of 5.
Violence against women is wide-spread and in most cases unreported. In South Africa, there are an estimated 60,000 cases of sexual assault per year. Rape and sexual assaults are even more acute in the conflict-torn zones, mostly the DRC, Sudan, and Nigeria (with Boko Haran) and the neighboring areas, where sexual violence is used as a weapon and continues with impunity. In some Muslim communities, mostly in Egypt and Uganda, FGM/C is still practiced, despite increased international opposition. Improved education system and investments for payed-job opportunities (mainly for the youth); increased social spending (in some countries, only 4-6% of the GDP is allocated to social protection benefits); improved infrastructure systems–mainly water, sanitation, and electricity; and enforcement of gender-equity regulations are some basic changes needed to improve the status of women in Africa.
Europe: Gender parity is an important part of the structural changes in Europe. The highest gender gap is in politics, on average at 80%; women represent 37.2% of the members of the European Parliament, but only 8 of the 27 commissioners are women.The Nordic countries–Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are the highest ranked by the 2014 Global Gender Gap report, having closed their gender gap by between 80% to 86%. As of May 2016, across the EU, women account for 29% of national parliaments. Although Poland has passed a law that requires at least 35% of local candidates in general elections to be female, the rate of women in the Parliament after the last election is 27.4% (as of 2016). The inter-institutional women’s caucus launched in December 2014 is supposed to address the gap by promoting gender equality in the EU institutions. In May 2016, women’s share of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU-28 is 23.3% (up from 11.9% in 2010). A draft EU directive voted by the Parliament in 2013 requires publicly listed companies to have 40% of each sex on their board by 2020, and the Aspire Fund was set up to support female business initiatives. A campaign has begun in Germany to get women in 30% of the management positions in journalism by 2017.
In the EU, women represent 60% of university graduates and in 2012, on average 83% of women reached upper secondary school, compared to 77.5% of men. However, women earn on average 16% less per hour than men for the same work, or even 31% less per year, since 32.6% of women are part-time workers. This also impacts old age living standards, with 23% of women aged 65 and over being at risk of poverty, versus 17% of men. Nevertheless, Europe has the best social policies, including child care, maternity leave, and health care.
Violence against women remains a concern, with some 33% of women in the EU having experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, and some 10% of women complaining of sexual harassment or stalking through new technologies.
Turkey, that aspires to join the EU, has yet to address its gender gap. As of July 2017, women representation in its parliament is only 14.6%, it ranks 133 by the GGGI, and it has a large gender income gap (estimated income for female being $10,501 versus $26,893 for male.) In Russia, a draft law proposes that at least 30% of parliamentary seats should be occupied by women (compared with 17.1% in 2017), as well as providing advantages for men to play a greater role in family life.
Latin America: Women’s participation in Latin American parliaments has improved due to the introduction of quotas in many countries. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile elected women heads of state. As of June 2017, 11 countries in the region have achieved more than 30% of women in parliament. In Mexico, 38% of the Chamber of Deputies are women and the President’s reform initiative includes that 50% of all political parties’ candidates for popular positions should be women. The 2014 Global Gender Gap report indicates that 14 of the 26 countries in the region have closed over 70% of the gender gap, with Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba being the region’s highest ranked, while Guatemala, Belize, and Suriname are the region’s lowest ranked.
More women than men attain tertiary education across the region, but IMF’s 2017 paper remarks that female labor participation is just over 50%, compared to 80% of male. Gender pay gap also remains; women are still earning 26% less than their male peers. Additionally, rural and indigenous women work at least 16 hours a day, mostly not paid. ActionAid shows that closing the wage and employment gender gap would mean almost 95% income increase for women, valued at some $1.7 trillion. Despite economic and political progress, women’s well-being continues to be hindered by the machismo structures and women easily become victims of organized crime in various forms. More than 1,678 women were murdered by their husbands and relatives in fourteen Latin American countries and three Caribbean nations in 2014; ECLAC (CEPAL) did not have data from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, and several other countries; hence, the number of femicide is much larger. As a result of restrictive legislation, one in three maternal deaths is due to abortion, and the lifetime risk of maternal death is 0.4%.
North America: Women’s share of the total labor force was 46.8% in the U.S and 47.3% in Canada as of 2017. In about 10% of dual-earning households in the U.S. and 33% in Canada, women earn more than their partners, as many women have higher education level than men and their number in senior manager positions is increasing. However, only 5.8% of women hold CEO positions at S&P companies in the U.S., and 69.9% of mothers with children under age of 18 were working; compared to 92.7% of fathers. Women earn 78% of what men earn for comparable work, and the wage gap is worse for women in color. The gap was largest for Hispanic and Latina women who were paid 54% of what white men paid. Based on the past half-century progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that in the U.S., the national wage gap will close around year 2058, although with significant differences among states; varying from the year 2038 in Florida, to 2159 in Wyoming. The Paycheck Fairness Act— a bill not yet approved — aims to counter gender-based pay discrimination.
Women’s representation in the U.S. legislatures is only 19.4% as of 2017; in Canada the rate is 25.2%, and only 2 of 13 provincial premiers are women. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments made critical cuts in domestic and international family planning programs for women. The U.S. is among the countries with the costliest childbirth, most expensive day care, and the shortest parental leave. Among 41 nations, the U.S. is the only country which doesn’t mandate national regulations nor government-provided paid parental leave. These problems are even more critical as the share of one-parent families in the U.S. has increased; children living with a single mother is the second most common family arrangement. (23%, as of November 2016) More than half of them are living in extreme poverty.
Canada provides maternity or parental benefits. According to the Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits policy (except for the province of Quebec, which has its own parental insurance plan), the EI benefits generally pay out 55% of one’s average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. (As of January 2017) Employers must give parents a minimum number of weeks for maternity, parental and adoption leave. But employers don’t have to pay them during such times. More than 40% of new parents surveyed said they could not afford maternity leave, and 81% of those who took the leave and returned to work, would have stayed longer if they could have afforded it. The share of employed mothers with children aged 6 and over increased from 46% in 1976 to almost 80% by 2012, while women with children earn, on average, 12% less than women without children.
In the U.S., violence against women was reduced by 55% since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.
Infant Mortality (deaths per 1,000 live births)
Source: World Bank indicators, with The Millennium Project compilation and forecast; graph from the 2015-16 State of the Future