Closing the Gender Gap



Closing the gender gap can create an economic advantage in communities but this is not recognized nor explored by political leaders and societies. While a fair amount of progress has been made, we still have our work cut out for us in closing the gender gap.


Sadly… Across the globe every day, women and girls experience some form of discrimination solely because they were born female. Throughout the course of their lives, they will encounter different types of discrimination that will affect their ability to access justice, to pursue their life choices and to fully benefit from opportunities for empowerment.


What does this translate to? A bigger gender gap. The development cost to countries is great: higher levels of discrimination in social institutions translate into poorer development performance and lower levels of gender equality.


For instance… If female farmers had same access as men to fertilizers, maize yields in Malawi and Ghana would increase significantly.[1] An earlier study of smallholder farmers in western Kenya found that women’s maize yields were 16% lower than men’s, largely because they used substantially less fertilizer.[2]


Note… Female farmers are just as efficient as male farmers but they produce less because they control less land, use fewer inputs and have less access to important services such as extension advice.


Why do men get paid more even for the same job? Female laborers at a coalmine in the Gabtoli region of Dhaka, Bangladesh work the same hours; fill the same size baskets with coal. While men earn 3 dollars per day, women are paid 2.5 dollars for the same arduous work.[3]


On average… women earn 18% less than men, according to analysis by Korn Ferry Hay Group, a consulting firm which looked at more than 8m employees in 33 countries. The pay gap is largely explained by a lack of women in highly paid roles. Women make up 40% of the global workforce for clerical jobs but only 17% of executive roles.[4]


The difference… The gender pay gap in the U.S. is often oversimplified. Women earn between 76 cents to 79 cents for every dollar men earn.[5]


Watch this video… IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says the numbers show women in top level positions boost corporate bottom lines and encourages women to form ‘coalitions’ to fight the gender pay gap.[6]


Fact… The players on the World Cup-winning United States women’s national soccer team earn less money than their counterparts on the men’s national team.


Is it about how much revenue the teams bring in? If so the women’s team should be paid more than cause the women brought in more than $23 million in game revenue, about $16 million more than the federation had projected. After expenses, the women turned a profit of $6.6 million last year. The men? Their profit was just under $2 million. But guess who gets paid more? Yes – the men![7]


Lets talk about women in the workforce… If more women had management and leadership roles it would generate more innovative solutions, much better governance and economic performance results.


Which countries have the highest rate of women in leadership roles? Russia may not play nice in the political arena, but the “macho” culture, vodka-drinking nation has significantly closed its gender gap, with 40% of women in leadership roles.


This is how Russia got that high %. Try and stay with me… Through the Russian Revolutions, 1917-1918, the first – the Tsar was kicked out and the second – the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin were placed in power. [8]

Women were involved in every stage of this revolutionary period, from the earliest days of protest in 1870s. It was during this period that several historic victories for women’s rights occurred in Russia. Laws were passed allowing women to work. Soon the norm for society was all adults worked regardless of their gender, so women advancing to leadership roles was nothing unusual.[9]


How cool is this? The Bolsheviks recognized that without qualitative economic development, the liberation of women was a utopian fantasy. The Bolshevik regime maximized its’ resources to fulfill the promise of women’s emancipation, this included creating a party department that catered to women’s needs called the Zhenotdel.[10]


So Russia has the highest rate of gender equality? No but women in Russia and neighboring Soviet states have enjoyed many advantages, such as state-supported childcare institutions, full abortion rights, access to a wide range of trades and professions, and a large degree of economic equality with their male co-workers—in short, a status in some ways far in advance of capitalist societies today.[11]


Which nation ranks highest in gender equality? Iceland ranks number 1 with a 0.881 score, where 0.00 = inequality and 1.00 = equality.[12] That’s a pretty impressive score. 2nd highest is Norway, then Finland, Sweden and Ireland is the 5th highest. Yemen is the least gender equality state, right next to Pakistan.[13]


But in Rwanda… Which is ranked 6th highest in gender equality, women blew past the 30% quota set up by Rwanda’s new constitution and now hold 64% of seats in parliament.[14] In 2000, the country ranked 37th in the world for women’s representation in an elected lower house of parliament. Today, it ranks first. Women say a quota is no longer necessary, because the culture has changed. Boys and girls now attend compulsory primary and secondary school in equal numbers. Half of the country’s 14 Supreme Court justices are women. Established businesswomen are leading members of Rwanda’s private-sector elite.[15]


On global scale how are we doing? The Global Gender Gap Index 2015 concluded: The Latin America and the Caribbean region, which closed its gap by over 4% in the past 10 years, has made the most progress.

Asia and the Pacific is next, but started with a wider gap.

Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and North America follow next, having closed 3.7%, 3.6% and 3.5% of their gaps, respectively.

The Middle East and North Africa region has made the least progress, at 2.9%.[16]


So how can we close the gender gap?

Governments could… implement policy changes which make childcare more affordable. Implement policy that women and men pay same health co-pays. Women are entitled to land ownership same as men. Tax incentives can also help boost women-owned businesses.

Corporations could… offer flexible working hours allowing women to balance family and work responsibilities.

Banks could… extend women’s access to the financial services they need to establish and grow businesses. This can be made possible by creating programs that offer women flexible payment schedules on loans, and easing collateral requirements because women often struggle to provide evidence of assets ownership.


You, dear reader, can use your voice to empower others and help close the gender gap. There are a plethora of actions that can accelerate the economic potential of women and well being of women’s livelihoods. Your voice speaks for many and as Wangari Maathai said, “the little grassroots people can change the world.”


Empowering women, improving their representation and participation in all walks of life, but particularly in the male-dominated world of politics and business, is a vital step in undertaking poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, civil unrest, I could go on. So why don’t policy makers, politicians, societies recognize this?