According to the Global Gender Gap Index, the United Kingdom is one of the most gender equal countries in the world, but if you drill down into the statistics, women and men appear to both more and less equal than the headline data suggests.
The BBC’s ‘How equal are you?’ interactive infographic allows you type in any country and see how equal men are to women across a range of different indicators – These statistics come from the latest Global Gender Gap Index, produced by the World Economic Forum which analyses more than a dozen datasets in order to compare gender inequality in 144 countries.
For example in the UK we are told that:
- The UK ranks 18/ 145 in the world for gender equality.
- However, women are still not equal to men
- For every £100 a man earns, a woman earns £83
- 43% of graduates are male (the only statistic where women appear to be outperforming men.
- 72% of women and 83% of men are either in work or looking for work (so I assume from this we can imply that women are slightly more likely to take on the caring role)
- 65% of senior managers and legislators are male
- 77% of government ministers are male.
The Global Gender Gap Index gives each country a score card – The UK’s Gender Gap Score Card looks like this:
Just a quick glance at the above chart should be sufficient to demonstrate some of the flaws in the Global Gender Gap Index:
- We rank 68th out of 144 for primary school enrolment – we couldn’t get any better but I’m guessing we’re brought down because there must be 67 developing countries where more girls are enrolled in primary school than boys (making up for years of gender discrimination)
- We rank 1st for sex ratio at birth – OK I know it’s lower in many developing countries because of female infanticide, but in the many countries where this simply isn’t significant, surely we’re just being rewarded here for very minor ‘luck of the draw differences’ in child sex at birth?
- We’re 81st for healthy life expectancy – surely here were just being penalised for women suffering from degenerative conditions linked to longer life expectancy compared to men’s? Surely this is a problem of low male life expectancy?
- Also, if you look at our real ranking success story – we’re effectively first in the world for gender equality in education, the real story is that despite ranking first in the world for gender equality in education, these gains have not been translated into economic, political or health advantages. This is hardly good for women.
- Our other great gender equality success story is the number of years with a female prime minister – Thatcher in other words. Given that Thatcher = neoliberalism and neoliberalism = increasing inequality, there’s plenty of disagreement over the extent to which this particular indicator can be interpreted as being positive for women.
There’s quite a few other things these stats don’t tell you – for example, there are enormous differences in the gender pay gap by age:
There’s also been enormous, rapid progress with women moving into Politics in increasing numbers…. The Gender Gap Index hasn’t been around long enough to show you this….
So how useful is the Global Gender Gap Index?
I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly interested in the issue of gender inequality, so I’m not particularly passionate about tracking down criticisms of data sets related to the issue, but it’s only taken me 30 minutes to find seven criticisms of the validity of this particular data applied to the UK, so I’m left wondering whether these world rankings have any meaning at all?