In the time it takes for a child to move from prekindergarten to her college graduation—14 years—the planet will have achieved gender equity. That is the sincere hope and the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day at United Nations Women. “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up For Gender Equality” urges all countries to embrace a future of equal pay, equal treatment and justice for all women and girls globally.
The 2030 UN Women’s goal is five years behind Take The Lead’s ambitious goal of achieving gender parity in leadership by 2025.
Started in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, International Women’s Day was practiced globally just a year later. The not so good news is that 107 years into celebrating global women’s equality, we are far from reaching parity for women.
In a new study from Overseas Development Institute in London, the numbers of global women in leadership does not mean women have more power overall or an equal share of voice.
Studying women leaders at the municipal, local, regional and national levels for two years in countries including Kenya, Malawai, Thailand, Gaza and more, researchers found the economic development of countries does not result in more women in leadership. The paradox is that there are more women in political power in sub-Saharan countries than in European Union countries.
“The research shows that women face a double hurdle to power, with formidable obstacles not only to obtaining access to decision-making positions and processes but also to having influence within them. Influential women overcome both hurdles,” according to the report.
Tom Murphy quotes Tam O’Neil, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute in the article in Humanosphere: “We need to do the things that give women power when they are in positions of influence.”
Women can leap over cultural and institutional hurdles with progressive family attitudes and an environment that promotes gender equity.
“In many settings, women who are politically active and who take on responsibilities outside the home transgress ideas about what women should do. But so often do their parents and partner – whether this is a father who supports his daughter’s education or encourages her to speak up, or a husband who shares domestic responsibilities,” according to the report.
There is also undeniable power in networking. “Women can and do advance other women’s interests – in most countries, women politicians, bureaucrats and feminist activists have been able to secure legal and policy reforms that advance the rights and well-being of women and girls,” the report shows.
More uplifting and at a quicker rate for the future of women and girls active globally in leadership is a recent Gov2020 report from Deloitte. Moving deliberately beyond quotas, gender can be an accelerator to economic advancement, the report shows.
“By empowering women economically, through education and employment, barriers fall not only for women themselves but for entire communities. This multiplier effect which results from women’s empowerment has the power to generate an economic surge for communities, nations, and the world if properly leveraged,” writes Kathy Julik-Heine of Deloitte Belgium.
“Countries where men and women have more equal access to economic opportunity, educational attainment, healthcare, and political empowerment are more competitive in world markets, have higher GDPs per capita and score higher on the UN’s Human Development Index of 185 countries.”
Echoing that theme is a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (holding its International Women’s Day conference in Paris). The study shows the lowest gender wage gap in the world is in New Zealand, with a pay gap of 5.6 percent. The country with the highest pay gap between men and women is North Korea, with a 36.6 percent pay gap. Somewhere in the middle is the United States with a 17.9 percent pay gap between the wages of men and women for equal work.
One step that may affect the wage gap is making parental leave a universal policy, according to a separate report from OECD. “Parental leave may also help reduce discrimination against women in the workplace and particularly in hiring. The reason is that if men and women are roughly equally likely to take leave, employers will be less reluctant to hire women of childbearing-age.”
Digital fluency may be the key to closing the leadership gap and pay gap globally, according to a new report from Accenture. Valentina Zarya writes in Fortune: “The analysis is based on a combination of existing country-level published data and a survey of 5,000 women and men in 31 countries about their use of technology and career advancement. Using variables like online access and the availability of work collaboration tools, Accenture assigned the men and women of each country a ‘digital fluency score’ on a scale from 1 to 100—100 being the most digitally fluent.”
The most digitally fluent country on the planet is the U.S., but the smallest pay gaps are in Argentina, United Kingdom, Ireland and South Korea. The largest pay gaps are in Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Even using digital fluency as a tool to accelerate gender parity across the globe, the goal of equality is even farther away than the UN projects, or Take The Lead aims to achieve.
Zarya writes: “While technology is indeed helping narrow the gender-based pay gap, at the current pace of change it will only close completely for developed nations in 2065. A doubling of this progress would speed up that trajectory to 2040.”
With those timelines in mind, the kindergarten student today (with the help of digital training) will likely be retired at age 70, so she can see her younger co-workers and children—male and female—cash the same paychecks. With those projections, at best, today’s kindergarten student will be two years out of college and working. But she may still be paid less for the same job than her male co-workers. These are motivating factors to use International Women’s Day to speak up and speak out about gender wage fairness.