Despite improvements, the current trajectory suggests that closing the gender gap across politics, economics, health and education will take more than a lifetime to achieve, according to the World Economic Forum.

The report noted that it will take 99.5 years to reach gender parity – an improvement on 2018, when the gap was calculated to take a total of 108 years to close.

The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found recent advances were mainly the result of a significant increase in the number of women in politics. Today, women globally hold 25.2% of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1% and 19%, respectively, last year.

However, politics is still the area that has shown the least progress to date, according to the report.

Another problem area is economic participation, which even saw the gap between men and women widen in 2019, as economic opportunities for women declined.

The reasons for this negative trend cited by the report include low levels of women in managerial or leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income.

The World Economic Forum concludes that “women have been hit by a triple whammy”:

They are more represented than men in retail and white-collar clerical roles that have been affected most by automation. Not enough women are entering technology-driven professions that have seen the highest wage growth. And there remains a persistent lack of care infrastructure and a lack of access to capital, which strongly limit women’s workforce opportunities.

Women spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available, the report notes. And the lack of access to capital prevents women from pursuing entrepreneurial activity, another key driver of income.

Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world.

“For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle. This is why the World Economic Forum is working with business and government stakeholders to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap,” he said.

One of the greatest challenges preventing the economic gender gap from closing is women’s under-representation in emerging roles. New analysis conducted by the World Economic Forum in partnership with LinkedIn shows that women are, on average, heavily under-represented in most emerging professions.

This gap is most pronounced across the ‘cloud computing’ job cluster, where only 12% of all professionals are women, followed by ‘engineering’ (15%) and ‘data and artificial intelligence’ (26%). Women outnumber men in only two fast-growing job clusters: ‘content production’ and ‘people and culture’.

The World Economic Forum advocates that more should be done to equip women with the necessary skills for these types of jobs, but cautions that even when women have the relevant skillset, they are not automatically equally represented.

These measures should therefore be supplemented with diverse hiring initiatives and the creation of inclusive work cultures, the report recommended.

“Insights from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can help policymakers, business leaders, and educators understand and prepare for how women will be represented in the future workforce,” said Allen Blue, co-founder and vice-president, Product Strategy at LinkedIn, in a press release.

“Our data shows that meaningful action is needed to build the systems and talent pipelines required to close the gender gap in tech and ensure women have an equal role in building the future,” he added.

Western Europe is the best performing region for the 14th consecutive year. With an average score of 76.7%, the region has now closed 77% of its gender gap, further improving from last edition. At the current pace, it will take 54 years to close the gap in Western Europe. The region is home to the four most gender-equal countries in the world, namely Iceland (87.7%), Norway (84.2%) and Finland (83.2%) and Sweden (82.0%).

The United States’ (72.4%, 53rd) and Canada’s (77.2%, 19th) performances are stalling, especially in terms of economic participation and opportunity. At this rate, it will take 151 years to close the gap, the World Economic Forum said.