Why The FQ Lounge is Coming to Davos: The State of Gender Equality Worldwide

Woman holding a globe

Photo Credit: Slava Bowman on Unsplash

Every year, world leaders in both the public and private sectors come together in Davos to tackle some of the planet’s biggest challenges. That’s why it’s so important to have a space for leaders to amplify the gender equality conversation with The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos.
Gender equality has been a topic of discussion for decades. However, in recent years, world leaders have made strides in pushing to end the disparity between treatments of men and women in the workplace.
But gender inequality is not just a social issue; it’s economic, too.
Improving gender equity in the workforce pays off for companies’ bottom lines. According to Deloitte research, organizations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Studies also show that Fortune 500 firms that promote women could increase their profits by one third.
Closing the gender pay gap could have large effect on the global scale as well.  A report by McKinsey Global Institute predicted that closing the gender gap in the workforce worldwide could — in a best-case scenario — add $28 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.
The number seems impossible, and it is a very, very long shot. Estimates suggest if progress continues at current rates, it could be more than 100 years before the gender gap is closed on a global scale, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018.
In the meantime, many governments are making slow and steady improvements to their policies in order to improve gender inequality. Here are some trends to watch:
American women earn, on average, $0.80 for every $1.00 that a man makes, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This number is lower than the average of other OECD countries, which is closer to $0.87 for every $1.00.
In the last year, Iceland became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women, and Germany passed a law requiring employers to reveal their gender pay gap to workers.
Switzerland also passed a law requiring salary equity, joining the ranks of other countries like the United Kingdom that have begun to enforce pay gap reporting on a governmental scale.
Several European countries are also taking steps to ensure the workforce is more welcoming to mothers. In response to a 2017 government report, Sweden increased its required paid parental leave to 480 days in an effort to encourage more balanced of care-taking between mothers and fathers.
Hungary has the longest government-enforced paid maternity leave in the OECD, at 71 weeks of paid leave, The Economist reported. The United States is the only country in the OECD without government-enforced paid maternity leave.
Some countries have also passed laws to encourage gender diversity in executive positions.
For 10 years now, Norway has required listed companies to keep 40% of their board seats open for women. In corporate America, however, no such requirement exists. One-fifth of executive leaders in the U.S. are women, and only 1 in 25 is a woman of color, according to a according to a 2018 study by McKinsey & Company.
The United States has seen improvements in its gender diversity in Congress in the last year. After November’s midterm elections, the representation of women in Congress increased from 19% to almost 24%.
Some countries are making moves to enforce gender diversity in their government. For the first time in southern Africa, Namibia enforced a “zebra system” in its parliament in 2014. Under this system, every minister of the parliament must have a deputy minister of the opposite gender. Although still new, the system could mean women will have more of an opportunity to hold higher positions in future elections.
Harassment culture toward women has also been a point of scrutiny in recent years. In the United States, the Women’s March joined the #MeToo movement as some of the largest social campaigns to end gender inequality in the country, and France approved a ban on street harassment and implemented fines up to $870 for catcalling and degrading comments.
We’ve seen progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. Leaders inside The FQ Lounge, The Home of Equality @ Davos will share the action steps we can take to advance equality—and why doing so is a win for us all. Find the full agenda here, and keep checking in daily for the biggest takeaways.
headshot of The Female Quotient intern at Davos London Gibson
London Gibson is a journalism student at the University of Texas who will be covering The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos. She has also reported for The Austin American-Statesman.