By Roselyne Sachiti
Results for 129 countries measured by a new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index released by Equal Measures 2030 show that the world is far from achieving gender equality, with 1,4 billion girls and women living in countries that get a “very poor” failing grade on gender equality.
The SDG Gender Index, launched on Tuesday at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference currently underway in Vancouver Canada, is the most comprehensive tool available to measure the state of gender equality aligned to the SDGs.
Women Deliver is a leading global advocate that champions gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women, while Equal Measures 2030 is an independent civil society and private sector-led partnership that connects data and evidence with advocacy and action, helping to fuel progress towards gender equality. The index, covering 14 of the 17 SDGs, measures countries on 51 issues ranging from health, gender-based violence, climate change, decent work and others. The global average score of the 129 countries — which represents 95 percent of the world’s girls and women — is 65,7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index scoring system).
No one country is the world’s best performer — or even among the world’s top 10 performers — across all goals or all issues.
In 2015, world leaders from all countries committed to achieve gender equality by 2030 for every girl and every woman when they signed on to the ambitious goals and targets of the SDGs.
Overall, the world is furthest behind on gender equality issues related to public finance and better gender data (SDG 17), climate change (SDG 13), gender equality in industry and innovation (SDG 9) and — worryingly — the standalone “gender equality” goal (SDG 5).
Denmark tops the index, followed closely by Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. The countries with the lowest scores in the index — Niger, Yemen, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad — have all faced conflict and fragility in recent years.
“With just 11 years to go, our index finds that not a single one of the 129 countries is fully transforming their laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030. We are failing to deliver on the promises of gender equality for literally billions of girls and women,” said Alison Holder, director of Equal Measures 2030.
“This report should serve as a wakeup call to the world. We won’t meet the SDGs with 40 percent of girls and women living in countries that are failing on gender equality,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“But the SDG Gender Index also shows that progress is possible. Many countries with the most limited resources are making huge strides in removing the barriers for girls and women across economies, politics and society, demonstrating that when it comes to gender equality, governments shouldn’t have excuses for inaction.”
“As advocates for gender equality in Africa, we can no longer operate on presumptions and approximations. Gaps of inequalities must be marked, counted and recorded so that the trail of implementation is clear and decision makers are held to account.
“The SDG Gender Index will help to ensure that Africa’s girls and women are counted and accounted for,” said Memory Kachambwa, executive director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).
With 8 000 decision-makers, advocates, and influencers gathered in Vancouver as part of the Women Deliver Conference, and over 100 000 participating around the world, we have the collective power to drive real progress on these gender equality scores and create real impact for girls and women,” said Katja Iversen, president/CEO of Women Deliver.
Released alongside the index, a new report from Plan International revealed that a vast majority of girls worldwide want to take leadership positions in the workplace, politics and wider society, yet more than nine out of 10 believe as women leaders, they will suffer widespread discrimination and sexual harassment. Close to 10 000 girls and young women between 15 and 24 years were surveyed in 19 countries as part of the research also released on Tuesday at the conference.
Of all girls and young women surveyed, 76 percent said they aspired to be a leader and over 60 percent said they felt confident of their abilities to lead. At the same time, 94 percent believed that being a leader involved being treated unfairly as compared to men and 93 percent felt female leaders experienced unwanted physical contact.
Alarmingly, this perception was stronger amongst young women who had some experience of leadership than those who had none.
“The findings show that despite having the aspirations to lead, girls and young women have extremely negative perceptions of what being a female leader involves,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.
“No matter where you are — USA or India, Japan or Sudan — for girls and women globally, being a leader means discrimination and harassment. That’s a major deterrent. In light of this, it’s not surprising that only 24 percent of parliamentarians worldwide and only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.”
The report: “Taking the Lead”, is the first of its kind that shines a light on girls’ and young women’s leadership aspirations, perceptions and real experiences across diverse societies and economies across the globe. It is jointly produced with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
“Our advocacy drives investment — political, programmatic, and financial — in the lives of girls and women worldwide.
“We harness evidence and unite diverse voices to spark commitment to gender equality. And we get results. Anchored in sexual and reproductive health, we advocate for the rights of girls and women across every aspect of their lives. We know that investing in girls and women will deliver progress for all.”
At the same conference, a new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, “The future of women at work: Transitions in the age of automation”, also released on Tuesday explores the impact of automation on the global workforce through a gender lens.
It finds that 40 million to 160 million women — as many as one in four women currently employed today — may need to switch occupations as their jobs become automated by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles.
The report concludes that if women succeed in making these transitions, they could maintain or even improve their current share of employment and be well positioned for more productive, better-paid work.
If they do not, gender inequality in work is likely to worsen, the gender pay gap could widen and some women may drop out of the workforce. According to the report, a roughly similar percentage of men and women may need to transition across occupations over the next decade — seven to 24 percent of women currently employed compared to eight to 28 percent of men. However, the report, which studies several scenarios of automation across six mature economies and four emerging economies in detail, finds that long-established barriers will make it harder for women to make these transitions.
They often have less time to re-skill or search for employment because they spend much more time than men on unpaid care work; are less mobile due to physical safety, infrastructure, and legal challenges; and have lower access to digital technology and participation in STEM fields than men.
These challenges have already slowed women’s progress, which comes at a high cost.
Previous MGI research estimated that narrowing gender gaps could add $12 trillion to the global economy in 2025.
However, in the four years since MGI first analysed gender inequality in society and work, progress on both fronts has been limited, and women’s progress towards equality in the workplace continues to lag behind social indicators of equality.
“At first glance, it looks like men and women are running the same race into the age of automation, but while the distance may be similar, women are running with a weight around each ankle. If we invest in removing those weights, women, will not only achieve greater economic success for themselves, but also help strengthen businesses and economies,” said Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of the report.
Policymakers and businesses need to step up interventions targeted at women to overcome these barriers. Top priorities include more investment in training and transitional support; more provision of childcare and safe and affordable transportation; addressing stereotypes about occupations; boosting women’s access to mobile Internet and digital skills in emerging economies; and supporting women in STEM professions and entrepreneurship.
“As we move into the future of work, we need to step it up and not leave half the population behind if we want individuals, societies, and economies to thrive,” said Katja Iversen.
“We need to invest — politically, programmatically, and financially — in girls and women so that automation continues to move us forward, not backwards.”
Addressing and promoting gender equality has been especially marked since the International Conference on Population Development in 1994 and the 1995 Beijing conferences at which governments agreed that a gender perspective should be an integral and cross-cutting aspect of all follow-up efforts.