Gender equality – facts and figures


“The blunt truth is that men still run the world. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect us all, women’s voices are not heard equally. Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally. In the November 2012 election in the United States, women won more congressional seats than ever before, bringing them up to 18 percent. In the United Kingdom, 22 percent of seats in Parliament are held by women. In the European Parliament, one-third of the seats are held by women. None of these figures are close to 50 percent.

The percentage of women in leadership roles is even lower in the corporate world. A meagre 4 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In the United States, women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions and 17 percent of board seats, numbers that have barely budged over the past decade. The gap is even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats. Throughout Europe, women hold 14 percent of board seats. In the United Kingdom, women hold about 7 percent of executive directorships and 15 percent of board seats among the FTSE 100 companies. These numbers drop to 5 percent of executive directorships and 9 percent of board seats among the FTSE 250.”

This is an excerpt from Sheryl Sandberg’s book  Lean In. I actually bought the book as a Christmas present for a friend – to try and counteract the sexist, religious sub-culture she’s been socialized into – but started reading it pre-wrapping and will definitely buy a copy for myself. Another gem: “Warren Buffett has stated generously that one of the reasons for his great success was that he was competing with only half of the population.”

The stats presented above show that in 2013 we are nowhere near gender-quality, even in the world’s most liberal and progressive democracies. A little closer to home, in the Stellenbosch University Economics Department we have three times as many male professors (13) as we do female professors (4). Of course we can find reasons why this is the case but explanations are not justifications and this is an indictment as far as I am concerned. It’s also in stark contrast to the South African Parliament where almost half of MP’s (45%) are female. We clearly need more and stronger regulations which legislate and incentivise gender equality targets in government, in academia, in business, and in society. Until there is equal representation in the halls of power we will all lose out – men and women, but especially children.

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