Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The status of women - progress and stagnation

In recognition of International Women's Day, the Globe and Mail has produced a spread on the status of women in different areas of the struggle for equality, and Canada's showing leaves much to be desired. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and egalitarian, but that is not really how the comparative numbers show us, and not all of this can be blamed on ten years of Tory mismanagement.
In the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index - a sort of combined index of all sorts of different factors, which essentially constitutes a list of the best places to be a women in today's world - Canada languishes back in 30th place (albeit out of a field of 144). This is a substantial worsening from 2014's ranking of 19th, even if the country's actual "score" is not significantly lower, suggesting that other countries are improving their conditions while Canada is not - we getting left behind. The main areas of concern leading to Canada's poor ranking are the male-female wage gap, and the proportion of female politicians.
As has been the case for several years now, the best performers are Iceland followed by the usual Scandinavian trio of Norway, Finland and Sweden. So, in general, Scandinavia is the best place to be a woman. Then things get a bit less predictable with countries like Ireland, Rwanda and the Philippines rounding out the top 7, and then some somewhat more predictable candidates like Switzerland, Slovenia and New Zealand.
A bunch of other metrics from various other sources collected together in the same Globe report makes quite interesting reading:
  • Iceland is also the safest place to have a baby, with a tiny infant mortality rate, as well as having the lowest mortality rate for children under five years of age.
  • Estonia is the country with the longest paid parental leave (3 years, fully paid for the first 435 days, partially thereafter, compared to Canada's one year, partially paid, and zero in the USA). Korea and Japan offer a year's paid leave to new fathers (Canada zero).
  • Slovenia and Denmark are the countries in which men do the most housework and child care. Canadian men's contribution in this area is respectable but not exceptional.
  • The country in which it is considered safest to be a women is Singapore, although Singapore's percentage of women reporting domestic violence over their lifetime is very similar to Canada’s (about 6%). This is, however, a metric notoriously open to cultural skewing - Sweden and Denmark, for example, countries known for their progressiveness and gender equality, have the highest reported domestic violence rates in Europe, but this is mainly because women feel more comfortable coming forward to report such crimes there.
  • New Zealand has the smallest gender wage gap among OECD countries, with Kiwi women earning just 5.6% less than men on average. This is the area where Canada performs worst, ranking 28th out of 34 (with an 18.97% wage disparity), with only Turkey, Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Estonia and Korea ranking lower. Statistics Canada put the Canadian gender wage gap even higher at around 26.5%, although there are various different ways the stat can be calculated.
  • Canada may now have a 50% female cabinet, but Finland beats that handily with 63%. However, in the House of Commons as a whole, female MPs make up only a paltry 26% in Canada, below the UN goal of 30%, and well below the case of Rwanda where women make up 64% of the national parliament.
  • Iceland wins again in the category of most female board members, with women holding 44% of the seats on boards of publicly-traded companies, well ahead of Norway's 36%. Canada appears in the middle of the pack with around 20%, but still substantially better than Japan's embarrassing 3%.
  • Portugal has the highest share of women inventors (18%), and Greece has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs. Canada performs poorly in both of these metrics.
  • China is home to the richest self-made woman, as well as to about two-thirds of all the self-made female billionaires in the world. China has three times the number of female billionaires in the USA, even though the USA has about twice as many billionaires of any gender as China.
  • South Korea has the highest percentage of university-educated women between the ages of 25 and 32 (millennials), with 72% compared to Canada's 67%. Women in both countries far outstrip their male counterparts.
  • Women make up 67% of the doctoral-level mathematicians in Estonia, as compared to less than 25% in Canada. Nearly 70% of students graduating with a degree in computing in Colombia are women; the equivalent statistic in Canada is just 17%.
Some of these statistics may well be cherry-picked for effect to some extent. But it does seem clear that Canada cannot rest on its laurels as regards its treatment of women, and much work still remains to be done.

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