gender gap driving underutilization

One Huge Reason Why the Global Gender Gap Report Affects You

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Oct 28, 2013    •    1326 Views

On Saturday, in Saudi Arabia, one woman with an international driver’s license drove to her local grocery store, alone, to purchase a container of milk. Elated, she arrived home to report that the trip was uneventful. Elsewhere, also participating in an “It’s okay to drive” day, dozens of Saudi women climbed into the driver’s seat and went somewhere.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where it is illegal for women to secure a driver’s license. Explained by a Saudi cleric to the NY Times, the campaign for women to drive “would lead to ruined marriages, a low birthrate, the spread of adultery, more car accidents and ‘the spending of excessive amounts on beauty products.'” (Sounds familiar. Econlife quoted a 19th century European man saying that learning to read could induce female “hysteria.”)

Last week, the World Gender Gap Report 2013 was published. With economics, education, health and politics the four focus areas, the report sought to avoid a development bias by looking at “gaps,” not “levels.” Rather than comparing access to resources and opportunities among countries through one set of criteria, it measured the gap within each country. After assessing each country’s gap in terms of itself, it looked at progress since 2006 and created a worldwide rank.

Over 380 pages in length, the report conveys a monumental amount of gender issue data for 136 countries. For the past 4 years, Iceland has ranked #1 with the smallest gender gap, Finland and Norway #2 or 3 during those years and then Sweden, consistently #4. Now #23, in 2011 the US was #17. At the other end, Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria were ranked 133-136. Moving higher from #133 last year, Saudi Arabia was #127.

Concluding, the WEF reports progress:

“The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 provides a comprehensive overview of current performance and progress over the last eight years. On average, in 2013, over 96% of the gap in health outcomes, 93% of the gap in educational attainment, 60% of the gap in economic participation and 21% of the gap in political empowerment has been closed. No country in the world has achieved gender equality. The four highest ranked countries— Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden—have closed between 81% and 87% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranked country—Yemen—has closed a little over half of its gender gap.”
And finally, we asked initially why the gap affects you. In addition to human equity, gender equality leads to economic efficiency. Underutilizing the abilities of half the world’s population means we are producing much less than our capability.
Perhaps that leaves us with this look at the correlation between the gender gap and per capita GDP.
Correlating Per Capita GDP and the Gender Gap WEF 2013

From: WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2013. The correlation between gender gap and per capita GDP.

Sources and resources: I do recommend looking at the WEF Gender Gap Report 2013, at this NY Times article on Saudi female drivers and econlife on Saudi women and subway construction. In so many ways, though, this NPR report and video (below) on Saturday’s call to Saudi female drivers convey the bigger picture.


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