To hope or doubt? The state of women’s progress in the world

To hope or doubt? The state of women’s progress in the world

I often invoke the words of United States abolitionist Frederick Douglass when asked about the state of women’s progress globally: “there is no progress without struggle”.

More than 110 diverse women, including the first Muslim women and the first Native American, were elected to Congress in the 2018 US midterm elections. Several factors appeared to shape the results, including an increase in the number of women willing to run; women of colour moving forward; and President Donald Trump himself – his comments, policies and the allegations surrounding his treatment of women.

A record proportion of women – 20% – were elected on the national level that night. This election certainly represented progress, though not without struggle. And the US still lags behind other countries, many of which have elected bodies composed of 40% or more women.

The gender gap around the world

There are signs of hope. More and more countries have gender-balanced national cabinets. Rwanda’s parliament is 60% female. Iceland continues its path toward complete gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report. Saudi women are at last able to drive legally and allowed into sports stadiums, though the Crown Prince has also jailed activists fighting for women’s rights.

In Germany, it appears likely that Chancellor Angela Merkel will be succeeded by the new Christian Democratic Union party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Two female heads of state in a row? That has only happened three times before: in Ireland, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

On the business side, countries are continuing to use affirmative mechanisms to ensure that women have seats on company boards. Even in the US, where quotas cause heated debate, California has mandated that publicly traded companies headquartered in the state must have at least one woman on their board. Many corporations now have boards of more than 50% women.

The #MeToo movement has galvanized people across the world to think about harassment in the workplace. It has given women permission to share their most difficult experiences, and it has highlighted how disastrous, both personally and professionally, such experiences can be. It has shown us what happens when women have to rely on men who abuse their power.

To find out more go to: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/women-progress-world-gender-gap-2018/