So the gap is growing…

International and national evidence  confirms that we cannot absolutely not assume continuing progress towards fair recognition of the value of women’s competences.

A recent blog by Laura Liswood drew my attention to the World Economic Forum’s  Global Gender Gap Report for 2016.  This is a complex, massively informative operation – a treasure trove which sorts countries by regions and income levels, along four main dimensions:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Economic participation
  • Political empowerment.

The overall conclusion starkly confirms the Paula Principle, at a global level:

On average, the 144 countries covered in the Report have closed 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men, unchanged since last year, and more than 95% of the gap in educational attainment,an improvement of almost one full percentage point since last year and the highest value ever measured by the Index. However, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide: only 59% of the economic participation gap has been closeda continued reversal on several years of progress and the lowest value measured by the Index since 2008—and about 23% of the political gap, continuing a trend of slow but steady improvement.

In other words, steady continuing progress on education (though see below for one limitation on the index used here);  but on the economic front – measured by gaps in female and male participation rates, remuneration rates and advancement rates to senior and professional positions – the last year has turned negative, actually reversing progress which had already been slowing.  The lack of a clear positive relationship between competences and recognition/rewards could not be clearer.

The limitation of the index used in education is this.  The WEF team have, for perfectly understandable reasons, taken the view that their focus on gender gaps means that where women have not only caught up but overtaken men, the score should be treated the same as equality/zero.  In other words, the gap has been closed, and for their purposes it doesn’t matter that a reverse gap has opened up.  I can understand their need to keep a ‘single direction’ approach.  But it critically reduces the significance of the way in which women’s competences are under-rewarded.

Very usefully, though, the report aims to show how far countries are actually making use of the competences/human capital of their population, linking that to the overall gender gaps.  Figure 9 gives the global picture;  apologies for its indistinctiveness, but the overall sense is clear.  Key contrast are between the Scandinavian countries, and Japan and Korea – equally high on human capital, i.e. with very highly qualified women, but poor at enabling this to be put to use.   The GGGR’s focus on outcomes is very welcome.








The UK ranks artificially low on education – 34th, because it misses out by an infinitesimal amount on one sub-indicator and so many countries score 100.  It is 20th overall on the composite index.  On economic participation the UK is 53rd, bracketed with Nigeria.  In the regional context, it is well behind many of our fellow Europeans (if such a phrase is permitted these days).  Ah well.











Back to the gaps.  The Chartered Management Group’s recent report shows that the gender gap in managerial salaries in the UK is £3K higher than expected.

Previous analyses of the pay gap based on managers’ basic salaries had put the gap at 23.1 per cent last year, or £8,964. Even without applying the new calculations, this year’s data show that this basic salary gap is, if anything, slightly worse at 23.6 per cent, or £9,326.

So the WEF and the CMI tell the same story: even though women, at all levels, are improving their qualifications, this not only does not necessarily bring the rewards that you might expect to the individuals concerned;  it seems that in aggregate the gap between them and their less qualified male counterparts is actually widening.

I’ll aim to bring some more heartening news in my next post.

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