The Gender Gap Index: A Reliable Resource for Analyzing Country Development
After giving a speech to a mainly male audience in Saudi Arabia, Bill Gates recalled a member of the audience asking him if it was realistic for Saudi Arabia to be ranked as one of the top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010. Gates responded saying, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country you’re not going to get too close to the top 10.”
Gates was on to something. When analyzing international problems such as poverty and lack of education, we tend to focus on a country’s level of wealth and access to resources. This narrow focus neglects many variables and does not take into account factors, such as gender equality, that influence major issues. Thus, it is important to add an additional measurement that is independent of country income and development to solve global issues. The World Economic Forum developed the gender index which has become one of the best indicators of national development as universal equality and a country’s development go hand in hand.
The World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization that focuses on social development as a cornerstone of economic development, created the gender gap index and provides updates as well as other information on this topic. The gender gap index examines the status of men and women in relation to one another based on individual country statistics.
There are 14 different variables that contribute to the female to male ratio, and they are compiled from various international sources. The purpose of this index is to provide a credible country ranking and to create awareness of the challenges that countries face in closing gender gaps. This information is vital because reducing these gaps creates opportunities for a greater and more successful world.
The latest Gender Gap Index can be viewed here. There are economic, educational, and political factors that must be taken into account when determining the gender gap index. The factors are listed in the table below:
|Economic Variables||Female/male labor force participation||Female/male wage for similar work||Female/male income disparity||Female/male in high positions|
|Education Variables||Female/male literacy rate||Female/male primary enrollment||Female/male secondary enrollment||Gross tertiary enrollment|
|Political Variables||Female/males in Parliament||Females/males at ministerial level||Number of years of a female/male head of state|
This index is linked to economic performance in a key way. A country’s economic performance is based on how well it is utilizing its talent base. Women make up 50% of the base population, so the countries that develop resources to benefit their entire population, will eventually perform the highest economically. If governments make gender equality a high priority of public policy, their overall development will improve drastically, and many existing transnational problems such as poverty, extremism, hunger, and conflict will be much more easily resolved.
Several of the most developed and industrialized countries are in the top ten ranking in the gender gap index. The top ten in order are Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, South Africa, Denmark, Ireland, Philippines, and Lesotho. Not surprisingly, at this point in time countries in South Asia are ranked very low according to the 2009 report. India is ranked 114 out of 134 countries included in the Gender Gap Index and Pakistan is ranked 132 out of 134 countries. Afghanistan is not included in the Gender Gap Index due to lack of reliable information, but it is surely very low on the list.
This index is vitally important to Barakat because it provides a measure of gender equality and demonstrates its effect on national development. Economic development is impossible without social development. Gender disparities severely hinder a country’s ability to pull itself out of poverty. Barakat empowers women and aids in decreasing the gap between males and females so that successful development becomes feasible.
We at Barakat believe that development in this region, and in all poverty-stricken countries, is dependent upon every individual’s skills and talents, not just half the population. Barakat strives to make the gender gap between females and males in the education sector smaller as it currently works for the equal education of men and women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. By focusing on education for women and girls, as well as training in human and women’s rights, we hope to make education for girls a norm for South Asian society. Female empowerment is the key to poverty alleviation and development. It is a challenge to formally educate women in schools because of the taboos against co-ed schools, the distance of the schools from the home, and the fact that many schools have only male teachers. Barakat’s literacy courses are ideal because they provide women with education close to their homes and many are run solely by female teachers. Barakat overcomes obstacles for female empowerment and educates women and the community so that the gender gap in South Asia can decrease and communities can bring themselves out of poverty.