Gender equality “moving backwards”
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Gender equality “moving backwards”

The headline in the Statista information bulletin leapt out at me. Highlighting a recent report from the World Economic Forum, it stated that based on current trends, it will take another 131 years to close the global gender gap, 30% higher than its 2020 prediction

The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap report observes 131 years is only the average. Political gender equality is estimated at 162 years away. The report looked at four sets of indicators: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.

The pandemic’s economic impact is the major factor in the backward slide, and while some countries’ pace of progress to gender equality have recovered, many more remain stagnant or continue to decline. The top nine countries which have closed at least 80% of their gender gap are Iceland, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Nicaragua, Namibia and Lithuania. United States, Canada, Switzerland are among the countries still moving backwards.

In examining the representation of women in news media, the 2020 Global Media Monitoring Project estimated that, all things remaining equal, it would take at least a further 67 years to close the gender equality gap in traditional news media. The WEF findings post-pandemic make a 2025 GMMP study all the more important.

Equal and fair representation of women in the news is both a reflection and a driver of gender equality. Women shown and quoted as leaders and experts impact the public debate and tangibly demonstrate to all the opportunity and possibilities women have in public life.

But what has also been more apparent in the last several years is the abuse women in public life receive online. Misogyny, harassment, and violence online has pushed many women to be silent or to go offline entirely. As a Tanzanian parliamentarian shared recently to WACC staff, the online abuse makes women considering entering politics to avoid social media – which greatly diminishes their visibility and their chance to be elected.

The gender gap in digital access is also highlighted by the WEF report as a factor:

“Online learning offers flexibility, accessibility and customization, enabling learners to acquire knowledge in a manner that suits their specific needs and circumstances. However, women and men currently do not have equal opportunities and access to these online platforms, given the persistent digital divide. Even when they do use these platforms, there are gender gaps in skilling, especially those skills that are projected to grow in importance and demand. Data from Coursera suggests that as of 2022, except for teaching and mentoring courses, there is disparity in enrolment in every skill category.”

The report goes on to note that when women do enrol, “they tend to attain most proficiency levels across skill categories studied in less time compared to men.”

Representation in news, digital access, and cyberviolence are just a few of the fundamental communication justice factors in our ongoing struggles for gender equality. The report demonstrates again that until communication rights are respected and fulfilled, attaining other rights and, ultimately, equality, remains far out of reach.


Photo by Nito/Shutterstock

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