Extremes of the Gender Gap: Automation and Role Models – by Tariq Siraj

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March – a day to celebrate the incredible progress that has been made in so many areas. However, it’s also a good moment to take a look at what still needs to be done…

Apparently we’re over 100 years away from true gender parity in the global economy according to the  World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. Whichever metrics one prefers to use, that is a grossly high figure.

At one end of the scale is education where it is forecast to take just 12 years, while at the other end we are still over 250 years away in the area of ‘economic participation and opportunity’ where things have actually regressed from the previous year.

The revolution of higher and higher female participation has taken place alongside a tech revolution whereby more and more roles at the lower levels become subject to automation. Female participation numbers are also still very low in areas with the greatest wage growth such as cloud computing (12%), engineering (15%) and data & AI (26%).

For these reasons among others, Malayah Harper and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen – two of the world’s leading women’ rights champions – push the idea that feminist leadership holds the key to true gender equality. The explore the development sector specifically, but essentially argue that cultural transformation is key; tackling the roots of sexism and creating a set of feminist principles to operate by.

This is a delicate balancing act. Positive discrimination which can be damaging in its own right, but the ‘role model effect’ is clearly important – not just as a way to inspire participation, but also to clear a path for progression.

Achieving the actual participation is one thing, but having something achievable and meaningful to aim for is becoming even more important.

  • Tariq

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Photo: UN Women / Ryan Brown / CC BY-NC-ND


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