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U.S. ranks 43rd on gender parity index this year, sliding 16 slots from last year

The World Economic Forum found that overall progress toward full parity has slowed and that the global gap is still not expected to close entirely until 2154.

The U.S. slipped from 27th last year on the World Economic Forum's global gender parity index to 43rd this year. Ezra Bailey / Getty Images

Global gender parity, which was rocked by labor disruptions and other aspects of the pandemic, is back to pre-Covid levels — but the gap isn’t expected to close entirely for 131 years, according to the World Economic Forum.

The international foundation released its annual Global Gender Gap Report on Tuesday, which found that the overall gender gap has narrowed by 0.3 percentage points compared to last year. But the rate of progress toward equality has slowed, and if it continues along this trajectory, the report authors expect overall worldwide gender parity won’t happen until 2154.

That’s the same year they had forecast in last year’s report — far beyond the 100 years that a pre-pandemic report had predicted.

“It’s clear that there was a massive generational loss that was created because of the pandemic and everything that followed afterwards,” said World Economic Forum Managing Director Saadia Zahidi, one of the co-authors of the report. “And now we’ve sort of stalled in terms of progress, even if some of the numbers have started to recover.”

The report ranked the United States 43rd among 146 countries examined, compared to 27th last year on its global gender parity index. The rankings were determined based on gaps in four main areas: work, education, health and political leadership.

2023 gender parity rank changes

The U.S. saw one of the largest one-year declines in its gender parity ranking, which measures gender equity in several areas. The lower the ranking the more equitable the country.

About 29% of U.S. congressional seats are held by women — a record high for this country. But the World Economic Forum ranking this year took into account women in the equivalent of both parliamentary as well as ministerial positions and heads of state. That played an outsize role in the drop in ranking for the U.S.

“It’s mostly the technical aspect, combined with the fact that there hasn’t been much progress in the other areas,” Zahidi said.

Iceland — which has taken the lead in closing the gender wage gap and has had multiple female leaders — was given the title of most gender-equal country in the world for the 14th consecutive year.

“It’s not just because other countries haven’t progressed too much. Iceland has essentially consistently challenged itself, and in the last decade or so, has sort of outperformed itself,” Zahidi said, adding that at one point, Iceland was the only country to have closed more than 80% of the gender gap and now is the only country to have closed more than 90% of the gender gap.

All countries in the top nine spots this year had closed at least 80% of their gap. After Iceland, the highest-ranked countries were Norway, Finland, New Zealand and Sweden.

No country has yet reached full gender parity — showing "there is still much work to do," said Sue Duke, the head of global public policy at LinkedIn, which provided data for the World Economic Forum's analysis.

She said there are a number of steps businesses can take to break down systemic barriers faced by women in employment arenas, including incorporating inclusive hiring practices and providing flexibility to all workers so women are not always the ones bearing caregiving responsibilities.

In last place on the global index was Afghanistan, a country that the United Nations has deemed the most repressive for women and girls following the Taliban takeover.

By region, Europe overtook North America as having the highest gender parity at 76.3%, while North America ranked second with 75% of the gap closed. The Middle East and North Africa comprised the region furthest from achieving parity.

Since the first edition of the gender gap report was published in 2006, parity has advanced by only 4.1 percentage points. But there was promising news: Of the 146 countries indexed, 117 have now closed at least 95% of the education gap.

The report’s authors urged “renewed and concerted action” to address gender inequality.

“Accelerating progress towards gender parity will not only improve outcomes for women and girls but benefit economies and societies more widely,” the report said.


(c) 2023, NBC News


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