Parity for Women Remains Five Generations Away – But Historical Election Year Offers Hope

12th June 2024

Posted In: Newsflash

The Global Gender Gap Report 2024, published today, reveals that the world has closed 68.5% of the gender gap.

However, at the current pace it will take another 134 years – equivalent to five generations – to achieve full gender parity. Globally, the gender gap has closed by 0.1 percentage points since last year.


“Despite some bright spots, the slow and incremental gains highlighted in this year’s Global Gender Gap Report underscore the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to achieving gender parity, particularly in economic and political spheres,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

“We cannot wait until 2158 for parity. The time for decisive action is now.”

Leadership Gaps: Top-Level Political and Industry Positions Remain Largely Inaccessible for Women Globally 

Women’s representation in the political sphere has increased at the federal and local level, though top-level positions remain largely inaccessible for women globally. With over 60 national elections in 2024 and the largest global population in history set to vote, this representation could improve.

Women are also still rare in top-level positions in industry, as highlighted by LinkedIn data: the “drop to the top” in representation from entry level to C-suite is observed in every industry.

While half of economies included in the Global Gender Gap Index made incremental progress, significant disparities remain. The slight narrowing of the global gender gap in 2024 is driven by positive shifts in the economic participation and opportunity sub-index (+0.6 percentage points), while political empowerment and health and survival edged forward slightly and educational attainment saw a small decrease.

Notable Regional and National Progress

Despite ongoing challenges, there are notable positive developments highlighted in the report.

Parity in labour-force participation rates for women have rebounded to 65.7% globally, from a low of 62.3% in the wake of the pandemic.

Latin America and the Caribbean achieved an overall gender parity score of 74.2%, as well as its highest economic parity score to date (65.7%), driven by strong parity in labour-force participation and professional roles, and the second highest regional political empowerment score (34%). This success story in Latin America can serve as a model for other regions.

A number of individual economies have made significant progress, with the six most improved countries climbing over 20 places in the rankings: Ecuador (+34, ranked 16th), Sierra Leone (+32, ranked 80th), Guatemala (+24, ranked 93rd), Cyprus (+22, ranked 84th) and Romania and Greece (+20, ranked 68th and 73rd, respectively).

Country and Regional Highlights

Europe continues to lead, with a gender parity score of 75% and with seven of the top 10 positions held by countries from this region. Iceland remains the most gender-equal country, having closed 93.5% of its overall gender gap. Other top-performing countries include Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Ireland, all closing over 80% of their gender gaps. Europe’s overall parity score has improved by 6.2 percentage points since 2006.

Ireland is ranked 9th in the Global Gender Gap Index Rankings (80.2%).

North America ranks second with a gender parity score of 74.8%, having advanced overall by 4.3 percentage points since 2006. The region shows strong performance in educational attainment and health, with scores of 100% and 96.9% respectively. Economic participation remains high at 76.3%, although disparities in earned income and underrepresentation in leadership roles have resulted in a slight decline.

Latin America and the Caribbean region ranks third, with a score of 74.2%. Significant strides have been made since 2006, with an overall improvement of 8.3 percentage points, the greatest improvement of any region. The region has also seen encouraging improvements in workforce participation, with women having a high level of representation in professional and technical roles, achieving full parity in 68% of the region.

Eastern Asia and Pacific ranks fourth with a score of 69.2%. The region’s economic participation and opportunity score improved to 71.7%, though significant disparities remain in labour-force participation and workforce representation between countries. While educational and health outcomes are strong, political empowerment lags behind. Countries including New Zealand (4th) and the Philippines (25th) lead the region.

Central Asia ranks fifth with a score of 69.1%. Despite near-parity in educational attainment and health, both economic and political parity scores regressed since 2023. Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan are the top performers, each closing over 71% of their gender gaps.

Sub-Saharan Africa ranks sixth with a score of 68.4%. The region has shown significant progress in political empowerment, with countries like Namibia and South Africa leading the way. However, economic participation and educational attainment still present challenges. Over half of the countries in the region have closed over 70% of their gender gap; however, the top and bottom ranks are divided by 22.9 percentage points.

Southern Asia ranks seventh with a score of 63.7%. The region has made notable improvements in educational attainment since 2006 but struggles with economic participation and some dimensions of political empowerment, such as representation at ministerial level and in parliament. Bangladesh leads the region, followed by Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Middle East and North Africa ranks eighth with a score of 61.7%. Despite low scores in economic participation and political empowerment, the region has seen marked improvements in educational attainment since 2006. Labour-force participation remains low in the region on average yet strides towards parity have been made by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in recent years. The UAE and Israel are the top performers in the region, the only two economies in the region to rank in the top 100.

Economic Gaps:  Gender Gap in STEM Fields and AI Talent Is Shrinking but Needs to Close Faster

While parity in women’s labour-force participation improved in 2024, regional differences remain significant.

At the industry level, LinkedIn data indicates that women’s workforce representation remains below men’s in nearly every industry and economy, with women accounting for 42% of the global workforce and 31.7% of senior leaders.

Additional factors, such as gender gaps in professional networks and care responsibilities are slowing economic progress for women.

The World Bank estimates that closing the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship could increase global GDP by more than 20%.

A positive development is that the concentration of women in AI engineering has more than doubled since 2016, indicating some progress in this area. However, the gender gap in STEM fields and AI talent remains a significant challenge.

According to data by LinkedIn, women comprise 29% of entry level STEM roles and only 12.2% of C-suite positions.

Gender parity in online skilling, as captured by data from Coursera, is currently too low in AI and big data (30%), programming (31%) and networks and cybersecurity (31%) courses to close existing workforce gaps. Furthermore, a large-scale worker survey by PwC reveals gender differences in the perception of demand, given current roles, with women estimating digital, analytical and green skills to be less important to their current career trajectories over the next five years.

There is also a gender gap in perceived opportunities to acquire the skills of the future.

“The slow progress that had been made in women being hired into leadership roles is now starting to erode from a peak seen in 2022. As the global economy has cooled, it is women that have been disproportionately hit, reinforcing the systemic issues that hold women back in the workplace,” said Sue Duke, Vice-President Global Public Policy and Economic Graph, LinkedIn.

“We are reaching a pivotal moment as generative AI starts to impact the labour market with a recalibration of the skills employers value most. Employers must ensure they apply a gender lens to their approach in up-skilling to establish the future workplace in a fair and equitable way.”

“Our research indicates that although total enrolments have increased, gender disparities in AI and digital skills have widened,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera. “Targeted interventions are essential to bridge this gap and ensure equitable access to learning emerging technologies. GenAI will play a crucial role in this effort, enabling personalized, multilingual learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of learners worldwide.”

Governments and businesses must shift resources and mindsets to embrace gender parity as essential for sustainable growth. Only through collaboration and targeted interventions can a 50/50 world be achieved.

The World Economic Forum is mobilising a coalition for action in its Global Gender Parity Sprint to 2030 and invites partners from public and private sector to join it in resetting the trendline to parity.