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International Women’s Day

IWD 2016 - Gender GapToday it’s the international women’s day. The hashtag is #pledgeforparity. Why does such a day exist? Why does such a day have to exist? Because there is still a gender gap in the world and in the labour force. You can find more about the history of that day here. Today the International Labor Organisation has publishes its report about this. And the sad conclusion is that the gender gap is still there.

The Gender Gap

Here are some observations:

  1. There is a larger participation of women in education. But this hasn’t translated into work participation. Improvements there are said to be only marginal. Europe, North America and Sub-Saharan Africa have the smallest difference in terms of labour market participation (ILO, 2016).
    Gender Gap in the World

    Gender gaps in labour force participation rates by region, 1995 and 2015. From the 2016 ILO report

  2. Women and especially young women have a higher risk of being unemployed (ILO, 2016). We all know that youth unemployment is one of the biggest social challenges of our time. We have to avoid this generation of becoming a “lost generation”.
  3. The quality of work is in general a challenge, but women are more faced with lower quality work and with informal employment than men. A lot of women are working in the support of families in often dire circumstances. Again North America and Europe are apparently the best pupils in the class (ILO, 2016).
  4. Women are overrepresented in clerical and elementary work in developing countries (ILO, 2016).
  5. Women spend more time on unpaid household and care work then men. Again this is more so in the developing world, but the difference is also there in the developed world. Women are doing more part-time work, have a lower income and where a pensions system exists gather lower pension rights (ILO, 2016).
  6. Globally the estimated wage gap is 23%. The ILO assumes it will take 70 years to close the wage gap (ILO, 2016).
  7. The refugee crisis that is hitting Europe and the middle east is tougher for women and girls than of men as they are more vulnerable to abuse, violence and discrimination. The EU parliament dedicates this women’s day to them (EU Parliament, 2016).
  8. There is a general pessimism about the future. The World Economic Forum expects it will take 117 years before women wil have the same career prospects as men.
  9. Europe and North America er doing OK. But also within the European Union there are differences with Sweden, Slovenia and Cyprus having the lowest gender segregation. Estonia, Finland and Latvia have the highest degree of segregation (Eurofund, 2016).

Action is needed

Observing this gender gap is one thing. Dealing with it is another. According to the ILO nothing much has changed in the past 20 years. There is some progress in terms of education and certain regions have evolved more than others. But globally we are in te same situation. And this is unacceptable. So we need to take action, both top down and bottom-up. We will need both. And since cultural paradigms determine the gap, it will take time to realise a shift. A Pledge for parity is the least we can do today. You can register your pledge here.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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