The 28th World Economic Forum on Africa has ended in Cape Town, South Africa, producing notable outcomes.

A new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that attaining global gender parity will take nearly 136 years, up from its previous estimate of almost 100 years.

WEF measures parity in four ways: economic participation and opportunity, education, health and political empowerment.

Data examined by the organisation showed that the gap in political empowerment has widened significantly since its 2020 report, while economic participation has improved only slightly.

The group estimated that the economic gender gap will take another 268 years to close. That data does not yet fully reflect the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, which could make matters worse.

It stated: “Progress towards gender parity is stalling in several large economies and industries. This is partly due to women being more frequently employed in sectors hardest hit by lockdowns combined with the additional pressures of providing care at home.”

While the proportion of women among skilled professionals is growing, income disparities and the scant number of women in managerial positions still pose problems, WEF said.

The report noted that women have lost jobs at higher rates than men during the pandemic, and are being rehired at a slower rate than men as the economy bounces back, adding that when schools and other care facilities closed, women “disproportionately” took on childcare, housework and the care of elders.

That, the report further observed, gave a boost to stress and hurt their productivity.

COVID-19 is also speeding up the adoption of automation and digitization. Women are underrepresented in sectors that are protected against this shift, like cloud computing, engineering and artificial intelligence.

“Women aren’t well represented in the majority of fast-growing roles, which means we are storing up even bigger gender representation problems as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Sue Duke, head of global public policy at LinkedIn, which collaborated with WEF on an analysis of gender gaps in up-and-coming jobs.

The overall gender gap is smallest in Nordic countries, with Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland and Sweden making it into the top five. The United States ranks 30th in gender parity.

The report echoes concerns raised in previous research. The United Nations (UN) estimated last September that fallout from the pandemic could push 47 million more women into poverty.

In the report, WEF Managing Director, Saadia Zahidi wrote:”We hope that this report will serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of our policies and practices to manage the post-pandemic recovery, to the benefit of our economies and our societies.”

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