132 years. This is the (ridiculous) amount of time that, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, will be necessary to close the gender pay gap and achieve equality between men and women globally. We probably won’t be even here, nor will our daughters.
The worst news is that things are getting worse instead of getting better. Before 2020, the World Economic Forum estimated that we would have closed the gap in 100 years. Then, with the pandemic, the situation for women worsened further.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst in widening the inequalities that underrepresented groups face in the UK’s business ecosystem. A variety of studies and research have proved how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who have lost work at higher rates than men. Women took on disproportionate responsibilities in caring for family members, especially of elderly people and children. Moreover, in Britain, women have historically been working in these sectors that were shut down and hit the hardest during the pandemic, creating the consequent push back of the gender pay gap.
Despite widespread efforts to improve gender equality at work, the professional world is a seemingly bleak place for women in 2022.
At the time being, of the 146 countries analysed, only one in five has bridged the gender gap of at least 1% in the last year. Iceland is at the top of the ranking: for 13 years it has been the country with the lowest gender pay gap. Just below are Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden. At the bottom of the ranking is Afghanistan, preceded by Pakistan, Congo and Iran. Worldwide, the average index is 68.6%.
Saadia Zahidi, a managing director at the World Economic Forum, said: “The pandemic has had a massive impact, and essentially rolled back a lot of the progress that was made in the past. The increased cost of living is also hitting women disproportionately following the loss of jobs during the pandemic and the continuing inadequacy of care infrastructure. Faced with a weak recovery, government and businesses must make efforts in two distinct areas: targeted policies to support the return of women to the workforce and the development of female talent in the industries of the future.”
What must be understood is that closing the gender gap for women could help economies out of the crisis. Gender pay equality is indeed beneficial for everyone. When human capital is diverse, companies become more creative and productive—two qualities that will continue to be essential as economies today rebuild and restructure. Closing the gender gap and making up for pandemic-related losses is thus critical for a faster, more robust recovery.
Written by Miriam Tagini