Why It Will Take More Than Two Centuries to Close Gender Pay Gap at the Workplace

The World Economic Forum's 2018 global report says on average, women make just 63 percent of what men earn

You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Though women's demands for equal pay and treatment at the workplace are getting stronger by the day, a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) says it will take 202 years to achieve gender parity in offices across the globe.

The WEF's "The Global Gender Gap Report 2018" notes that the year of 2018 saw some improvements in wage equality compared to the previous year, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade. Declining representation of women in politics, along with greater inequality in their access to health and education, however, offset these improvements.

"On the one hand, countries, where the next generation of women are becoming leaders in their domains, are poised for further success. On the other hand, this year's analysis also warns about the possible emergence of new gender gaps in advanced technologies, such as the risks associated with emerging gender gaps in Artificial Intelligence-related skills," says Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairperson, World Economic Forum, in the report.

Where the difference lies

The report found that, on average, women make just 63 per cent of what men earn. None of the 149 countries studied as part of the WEF report had women making more or as much as their male counterparts, on average.

It pointed out something companies, big or small, have been claiming to address for a long time: the economic divide between men and women is prominent in leadership roles. The report notes that "in the workplace, women still encounter significant obstacles in taking on managerial or senior official roles."

"When we consider only managers for the subset of countries for which recent data are available, just about 34 percent of global managers are women," the report says. "When we include data on managers, senior officials and legislators in the set of 144 for which we have data, 68 percent of the world gap remains to be closed."

Let's talk numbers

The most gender-equal country to date is Iceland. It has closed over 85 per cent of its overall gender gap. It is followed by Norway (83.5 per cent), Sweden and Finland (82.2 per cent). Although dominated by Nordic countries, the top ten also features a Latin American country (Nicaragua, 5th), two Sub-Saharan African Countries (Rwanda, 6th, and Namibia, 10th) and a country from East Asia (Philippines (8th). The top ten is completed by New Zealand (7th) and Ireland (9th).

Western Europe is, on average, the region with the highest level of gender parity (75.8 per cent). North America (72.5 per cent) is second and Latin America (70.8 per cent) is third. They are followed by Eastern Europe and Central Asia (70.7 per cent), East Asia and the Pacific (68.3 per cent), Sub-Saharan Africa (66.3 per cent), South Asia (65.8 per cent) and the Middle East and North Africa (60.2 per cent).

Technology glitch

The report singles out the technology sector for its growing gender gap. The study data demonstrate a persistent structural gender gap among AI professionals, with well-differentiated career trajectories taken by men and women in today's labour market. "The gender gaps evident within the AI talent pool reflect both the broader gender gaps within specializations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies; gender gaps across industries; and gender gaps in the acquisition of emerging skills. Today, the growth of new fields such as Artificial Intelligence across industries seems likely to entrench and deepen gender gaps across traditionally male industries such as Manufacturing, Hardware and Networking as well as Software and IT Services. It appears, too, that AI is set to widen gender gaps across traditionally female sectors such as Non-Profits, Health Care and Education," the report says.

The key, it says, lies in effective reskilling interventions and tangible job transition pathways.

"In an era when human skills are increasingly important and complementary to technology, the world cannot afford to deprive itself of women's talent in sectors in which talent is already scarce," says Schwab.