Have we now (nearly) achieved gender equality?

The World Economic Forum (which runs the annual get-togethers in Davos, Switzerland) yesterday published a report on gender equality around the world, and it concluded that the gender gap was now visibly narrowing. The report, The Global Gender Gap Report, looks at economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment, and draws up global rankings for countries based on these criteria. And here are the top 10 countries for gender equality:

1. Iceland
2. Norway
3. Finland
4. Sweden
5. New Zealand
6. Ireland
7. Denmark
8. Lesotho
9. Philippines
10. Switzerland

The UK comes in at number 15, and the United States at 19. The twelve lowest placed countries are Iran, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Benin, Saudi Arabia, Côte d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Chad and Mali (not in that order). If you should be surprised at Ireland’s very strong performance, you can find details of the relevant statistics on page 166 of the report. While the Nordic countries out-perform Ireland, there is not a huge gap between them and this country. It is also notable that Ireland performs visibly better than most continental European countries. Amidst all the negative news right now, this is not a bad achievement.

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11 Comments on “Have we now (nearly) achieved gender equality?”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    From what I understand, part of the high ranking is due to having had two female Presidents: a good thing indeed but a largely ceremonial office nonetheless.
    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2010/10/12/gender-gap/


    • It’s true, but it only accounts for a very small part of the score. This is visible also that, over five years, we have moved from No 10 to No 6. None of that can be attributed to female Presidents, as we already had that back then!

      • Perry Share Says:

        Well, technically speaking, the score is for number of years with a female head of state/govt out of last 50 years. So our score should continue to increase on this measure for as long as we have a female president (and/or Taoiseach) until it reaches a perfect score in 2040 (50th anniversary of election of Mary R.)(when President Katie Taylor will be completing her second term of office!)

        This is probably not crucial to our overall score, though. The ‘success’ of Ireland in the index appears to be largely based on high levels of educational attainment for women at all levels (especially 3rd level) and the very high proportion (ranked no. 1 in the world) of women in professional and managerial employment. Expect that figure to drop once the public sector has been slashed!

        The participation of women in politics is Ireland’s real Achilles Heel and it may be no coincidence that one of the most male-dominated political systems in Europe is arguably one of the most inept?

        • Perry Share Says:

          Oops! My mistake. It will only take 25 years to reach a perfect score, as the ratio is pegged at a maximum of 1. (25 years female Pres: 25 years male pres).

          Amazingly, we have had a female president for 20 years now, so we are getting close to that mark.

          On a related point it was interesting that the other day when Mary McAleese came to open our new library in Sligo, that the President of the country, the President of the Institute and President of the Students Union were all women. That must be pretty unprecedented 🙂

        • Perry Share Says:

          Last point – promise. In fact careful examination of the data does seem to suggest that it is the 2 Marys that have pushed us up the table.

          If you compare Ireland with Australia (say) you will find that Oz outscores or equals us on all measures except for the political empowerment one and, if you look at how that factor is weighted, you will see that nearly half of the score is made up by the Head of State measure.

          The other Ministerial Mary’s (Hanafin, Harney, Coughlan) are probably also a contributor (quarter of the weighting). Its a nice thought that these five Mary’s are probably the most responsible for our unexpectedly good showing in this particular league table.

  2. Steo Says:

    Good to have something to be proud of Ireland for, considering the past two years or so.

  3. colummccaffery Says:

    While any mark of progress is welcome, day-to-day observation would suggest that gender equality is still an ambition. Yes, there has been change and it continues but it’s maddeningly slow. Recently I found that I was back to the 70s, arguing for quotas.

    http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/on-gender-quotas/

    Incidentally, am I alone in noting that far more men than women participate in on-line debate?

    • Jilly Says:

      There have obviously been many, many improvements, but I’d say that gender equality is still a long, long way away…

  4. iainmacl Says:

    Sadly however we are the worst in Europe for gender equality in senior and promoted posts in Higher Education. The European ‘She Report’ from Nov 2009 showed that Ireland has the highest ‘glass ceiling index’ for academic staff. The scale of the issue is actually quite severe and our own research into this has shown that, for example, the percentage of professorships held by women in Ireland ranges from as low as 9% up to about 20ish%. Similarly the percentage of ‘senior lectureships’ held by women is disproportionately low despite making up half or more of academic staff at the lower grades.

  5. cormac Says:

    Ireland ahead of Denmark on gender equality? That suprises me as it does noth match my own experience, livng in Denmark some time ago. Must hve alook at the criteria when I get a chance..


  6. […] live in a time where the world is trying to convince us we have reached equality. That we have reached tolerance to the highest level we possibly can and that we have reach a […]


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