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Global state of Gender Parity
April 19, 2015, 1:44 pm

Gender parity, whether in education, health, economics or politics, is something that has received plenty of verbiage in recent times.

With several high-profile campaigns and initiatives on greater equality between the genders set to take place this year, both on the local and international level, we look at some worldwide gender trends that highlight the importance of education and an enabling environment to achieving greater equality for women.

Worldwide 91 percent girls completed primary school

Education and especially educating girls is one of the best investments that countries can make.

In 2012 more girls completed primary school than ever before. Nevertheless, large disparities remain between various regions and countries of the world. Only 66 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa completed primary school in 2012; in three countriesthis figure was under 35 percent.

The percentages for the various regions are Europe and Central Asia: 97.9 percent; Latin America and Caribbean 96.48 percent; Middle-East and North Africa 93.6 percent; World 90.9 percent; South Asia 90.45 percent; Sub-Saharan Africa 65.72 percent

By 2015 developing countries as a whole are projected to reach gender parity in terms of primary and secondary enrollment.

Rising education and falling adolescent fertility

Globally, the adolescent fertility rate declined from 77 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 1970 to 45 per 1,000 in 2012. This happened while female secondary school enrollment increased from 35 percent to 72 percent.

What this shows is that teenage women are less likely to become mothers when they attend secondary school.  The relationship between the two tends to be similar across regions, except for Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and Pacific, where the correlation is much weaker.

Middle East and North Africa in 1970 with a population of 140.2 million had female secondary school enrollment of 17.27 percent and adolescent fertility rate, or births per 1,000 women aged 15 – 19 was 123.71 births. In 2012 these numbers were respectively 395.3 million, 78.6 percent and 34.43 births

South Asia in 1970 with a population of 716.2 million had female secondary school enrollment of 13.39 percent and adolescent fertility rate, or births per 1,000 women aged 15 – 19 was 123.34 births. In 2012 these numbers were respectively 1.65 billion, 60.87percent and 38.76 births

Sub-Saharan Africa in 1970 with a population of 291.3 million had female secondary school enrollment of 10.57 percent and adolescent fertility rate, or births per 1,000 women aged 15 – 19 was 149.4 births. In 2012 these numbers were respectively 912.2 million, 37.56 percent and 108.1 births

Female labor force

Sub-Saharan Africa at 64 percent has the world’s highest female population in workforce

The labor force participation rate worldwide, which is the ratio of employed and unemployed to the working-age population,are lower for females than males, partly because female labor participation rates are likely to be underestimated due to difficulties in capturing those women in non-regular, unpaid or informal work.

In addition, a high labor force participation rate is not always a positive sign, since it may imply little choice to remain out of work. Experts note that policies which ensure women can take part in the workforce on equal terms with men are key to achieving gender equality and poverty reduction.

The labor participation rate of females aged 15+ was 22 percent in Middle-East and North Africa, 31 percent in South Asia, 51 percent in Europe and Central Asia, 54 percent in Latin America and Caribbean, 57 percent in North America, 61 percent in East Asia and Pacific and 64 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women in top management positions

Women’s participation in economic activities, particularly in business leadership roles as top managers in firms, highlights their economic empowerment and advancement. Around 30 percent of East Asia’s top management positions are held by women


Although the East Asia and Pacific region leads the way, the average share of firms with female top managers around the world is low, at about 20 percent.  These statistics also do not fully capture women-led firms, which tend to be smaller than male-led firms and concentrated in such areas as retail businesses.

East Asia had 29.4 percent of top managers as women in 2009, Latin America and Caribbean had 21 percent, East Europe and Central Asia had 19.4, Sub-Saharan Africa had 15.8, South Asia had 8.9 and the Middle-East and North Africa had 4.4 percent.

In fact fewer women (4.1%) run S&P 1500 firms than men named David (4.5%) or John (5.3%)

Use of mobile technology

According to the GSMA’s ‘Connected Women 2015’ study which surveyed 12 countries, women see mobile phones as tools that make them feel safer, save them time and money and open up employment and education opportunities.

However,Women are 14 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men. The report finds that in low and middle-income countries, over 3 billion people still do not own mobile phones, of which approximately 1.7 billion are female. Nearly 2/3 of these unconnected females live in the South Asia and East Asia & Pacific regions and a significant number, over 300 million, also live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Of a total of 3 billion males, 48 percent own a mobile phone while of a total of 2.9 billion females only 41 percent owned a mobile.

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