Understanding The Gap: Breaking Down Pakistan's Dismal Scores In Gender Equality

Understanding The Gap: Breaking Down Pakistan's Dismal Scores In Gender Equality
The Global Gender Gap Report 2022 issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Pakistan 145 out of 146 countries. It deserves the attention of our policymakers. The report looks at countries' performance in closing gender-based gaps in four critical areas: Education Attainment; Health and Survival; Economic Participation and Opportunity; and Political Empowerment.

In Education Attainment, with a score of 0.825, Pakistan stands at the 135th position. In Health and Survival, it has performed better than China (0.940) and India (0.937) and scored 0.944 -- standing at the 143rd position. In Economic Participation, it has scored 0.331 and taken 145th position, a notch above Afghanistan (0.176). But the country has shown good performance in Political Empowerment; with a score of 0.156, in the 95th position.

Pakistan is only behind Afghanistan, which has closed 43.5% of its gender gap. Besides the two neighbours, India and Afghanistan, the other countries on the list of the five worst countries in terms of gender parity are Congo, Iran and Chad.

South Asia is the lowest-ranking region and has closed 62.3% of the gender gap. It has the lowest regional gender parity scores in Health and Survival and Economic Participation at 94.2% and 35.7% respectively, and the second lowest in Education Attainment at 93.2%. It has the fourth highest gender parity score in Political Empowerment at 26.2%. According to the report, South Asia will need more than 197 years to reach gender parity – likely to be achieved in the year 2219.

The report specifically highlights gender parity in leadership, economic participation and political empowerment.

Moreover, the report states that the vast difference between the career trajectory of men and women is due to two factors: transitioning to their first managerial role and internal promotion. And while gender gaps in leadership roles are getting wider – women make up half of the entry-level roles, about a third of managerial roles, and only a quarter of senior leadership positions.

Unequal access to wealth-building resources contributes to the widening wealth divide. Women are in a disadvantageous position in terms of wealth accumulation. The gender wealth gap has been calculated to be 11%. The gap keeps widening; for technical and professional roles, it reached 31%. It further expands to 38% for senior expert and leadership roles.

Political empowerment remains the worst-performing area throughout the world. The report suggests that at the current pace, it will take around 155 years to bridge the gender gap in the Political Empowerment area.

Pakistan has a population of 107 million women and is the second-worst country in terms of gender parity. Thus, our policymakers need to address the above issues. Women should be given a due leadership role in the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. It will help to reduce the gender gap while strengthening our institutions with women's potential and perspective. Any assumption or mindset that women are weak and hence unable to perform in administrative positions lacks logic and scientific foundations. Thus, women deserve leadership roles in all organizations based on merit. It will help to promote good governance and strengthen Pakistan.

Women constitute almost 50% population of Pakistan. Denying equal economic opportunities will weaken our economy. Economic inclusion will boost their confidence and will bring diversity and fresh perspective to the national economy. The report notes that the number of women-owned unicorn companies has increased five-fold from 18 in 2020 to 83 in 2021. However, dollar investment in women-owned businesses is still significantly less than those led by men. It means that given economic opportunity women can perform equally well in business. Bringing women on board will help Pakistan to become economically strong lessening its dependence on foreign economic assistance and aid. How can a nation make economic progress by excluding half of its population from the economic sphere?

Likewise, political participation is a must for women's empowerment. Allowing more women access to parliament would promote democracy. It would allow women to share their perspectives in law-making. Without women's perspectives, our laws and policies will remain flawed. How can law or policy be effective without the voice of the fifty percent population of a country? Thus, women should have due role and authority to make national policies, laws, rules and regulations. It will make the process of legislation inclusive making laws more effective.

Briefly, to make Pakistan stronger, we must address the issue of gender parity. It begins with educating and changing our mindset, creating equal opportunities for women in all spheres of life. Structural and institutional changes must be made to bring substantive gender equality. Gender-responsive policies need to be introduced at all levels of governance. A 'gendered' perspective should be promoted through both electronic and print media. Gender awareness can also be created through conferences, seminars and workshops. Special courses to develop the nuances of a 'gendered' perspective must be offered at each level of education. The judiciary needs to protect the fundamental right to equality of citizens more effectively. Otherwise, Pakistan may go further down in global gender gap indicators.