Member Groups

Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

January 2008, vol. 13, no. 2

2007 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index

On November 8, 2007, the World Economic Forum released its second Gender Gap Index Report – a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities across the world and tracking how they evolve over time. This year’s report featured 128 countries and provided insights about 90 percent of the world’s population. The top 20 countries that performed best in the 2007 index are outlined below along with their ranking in 2006.

Country

2007

Score

2006

Sweden

1

81.46

1

Norway

2

80.59

2

Finland

3

80.44

3

Iceland

4

78.36

4

New Zealand

5

76.49

7

Philippines

6

76.29

6

Germany

7

76.18

5

Denmark

8

75.19

8

Ireland

9

74.57

10

Spain

10

74.44

11

United Kingdom

11

74.41

9

Latvia

13

73.33

19

Lithuania

14

72.34

21

Sri Lanka

15

72.30

13

Croatia

16

72.10

16

Australia

17

72.04

15

Canada

18

71.98

14

Belgium

19

71.98

20

South Africa

20

71.94

18

The Global Gender Gap Index Report 2007 is based on innovative new methodology introduced last year and provides insight into the economic, legal and social aspects of the gender gap in 115 countries examined both in 2006 and 2007. The inequality between men and women are evaluated in four critical areas:

1) economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high skilled employment;

2) educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education;

3) political empowerment – outcome on representation in decision-making structures; and, 

4) health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio.

The report assesses countries on how well they are allocating their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities. According to Saadia Zahidi, one of the report’s co-authors, “the purpose of the rankings is to bring out where a country stands in terms of dividing its resources between men and women.”

The report also provides some support for the premise that the economic performance of a country is directly linked to its gender gap. The report shows a strong correlation between competitiveness and gender gap scores. While this may not imply causality, the possible theoretical underpinnings of this link are quite simple: countries that do not fully capitalize effectively on one-half of their human resources run the risk of undermining their competitive potential. The report authors specifically want to highlight the incentive behind empowering women in addition to promoting equality as a basic human right.

Again, the annual survey does not take into account a country’s overall level of economic development. As a result, women in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Cuba and Lesotho all fared better than their peers in industrialized nations like Japan, Switzerland and the United States. Overall, the survey revealed that women in Muslim countries are struggling to compete for jobs, win equal pay and hold political office causing them to fall behind the rest of the world in eliminating discrimination. By contrast, the Nordic nations received the best overall grades for gender parity in education, employment, health and politics.

The United States ranked 31st falling eight places since last year’s survey. The United States scored lower because the percentage of female legislators, senior officials and managers fell in 2007. Also, the pay gap between men and women widened.

The report results from a collaboration between Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, Laura Tyson, Professor of Business Administration and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley and Saadia Zahidi, Head of the World Economic Forum’s Women Leadership Program. The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Founded in 1971, the Forum is based in Geneva, Switzerland and is an impartial, not for profit foundation with no political, partisan or national interests. The report is available online at www.weforum.org/gendergap


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