World Economic Forum experts call for gender equality

Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the World Economic Forum, Silja Baller.

According to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report, the globe is 132 years away from achieving gender equality.

This is while studies reveal that a woman dies every two minutes from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth complications. At the same time, they also have to contend with the high cost of living.

This is the reason why the World Economic Forum has prioritised closing the gender gap and empowering women, as the international non-governmental and lobbying organisation commemorates International Women’s Day.

International Women's Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 as a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.

It offers an opportunity to take stock and to take action around the state of gender equality globally.

According to the World Economic Forum, the growing range of interconnected “polycrises” that are shaking the world are fuelling a cost of living crisis – which women are bearing the brunt of globally.

The Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the World Economic Forum, Silja Baller, said women have historically shouldered a disproportionate share of care responsibilities. 

“What happened during and since the pandemic is that care infrastructure broke down globally, leaving many women unable to return to the workforce,” she added.

She said: “The International Women’s Day 2023 comes at a critical juncture for gender equality, where we risk falling even further behind unless concrete and concerted steps are taken across the world.”

Women’s health, according to studies, is still dramatically underfunded and under-researched, which fuels the already significant health, social and economic disparities across the world.

“For too long, women and their families have been left to deal with unmet health needs and the physical, economic and social consequences this has,” said Shyam Bishen, Head of Health and Healthcare at the World Economic Forum.

“Women’s health has been seen as their individual issue – and this needs to change.”

The forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society (CNES) is complementing its annual Global Gender Gap Report with a growing portfolio of action initiatives and leadership communities.

For instance, the Gender Parity Accelerators – already present in 13 countries – aim to hardwire gender parity in the world of work and display the tremendous economic boon that parity could bring.

In 2023/2024, CNES will also host the Global Future Council on the Future of the Care Economy to explore models for investment and innovation in care systems, develop dialogues on access to STEM skills and careers, and aggregate insights on applying a gender lens to economic policymaking.

“Countries must invest in closing gender gaps,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

“With an increasingly uncertain economic outlook, unleashing the creativity and dynamism of a country’s entire human capital is critical to overcoming the current era of ‘polycrises’ and accelerating a sustainable recovery.”

In terms of health and healthcare, the forum has launched a flagship Initiative on Protecting Women’s and Girls’ Health that aims to provide a platform to accelerate and foster meaningful coalitions between critical actors to enhance women’s health.

“As the world grapples with converging crises, we must act swiftly and collectively to advance gender-inclusive partnerships, policy changes and innovations,” said Bishen.

“Investment in women’s health should not be seen as a cost but as an investment opportunity and a critical global priority that can positively shape the future for generations to come.” –