Will We Ever Close the Gender Gap?

Every year, the World Economic Forum updates its Global Gender Gap Report, which measures gender disparity across 144 countries and tracks this progress over time. The report pays special attention to the gaps between women and men with regard to health, education, economy and politics.1

Although the corporate “glass ceiling” has been broken by a growing number of women, the 2016 gender gap report shows that progress is slowing down for working women both in North America and Europe, while the Middle East and North Africa regions showed the most improvement.2 The report projects that:

  •         Western Europe will close the economic gender gap in 47 years
  •          Latin American and the Caribbean are on tap to close the gap in 61 years
  •          South Asia may not reach parity for another 1,000 years
  •          North America has been moving backward since 20063
  •          At the current pace, it will take approximately 158 years to achieve gender equity in America4

One of the high-growth industries that lacks female participation is technology. Although women comprise about half of the U.S. workforce, they account for less than a third of employees at technology companies. 5

For decades, educators have tried to reverse this trend. In fact, the number of women studying computer science in college rose to 37 percent in the 1980s, but that number began declining in 1985, and in 2013, women accounted for only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computing. Further, after gaining employment in the field, more women than men are likely to leave. One reason for that is they feel isolated and don’t have the support networks that men have.6

Even Melinda Gates, wife and former Microsoft colleague of Bill Gates, has admitted that early on in her career she had doubts about continuing to work in the tech environment day in and day out — observing, “I felt like I had to be argumentative all the time.” It’s not that she couldn’t do the work, but the caustic nature didn’t suit her personality, and she felt there were better ways of getting the work done.7

According to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, 51 percent of women in the cybersecurity industry say they’ve experienced some form of discrimination at work, while only 15 percent of men experienced discrimination. The women surveyed reported unconscious bias (87 percent), tokenism (22 percent) and outright discrimination (19 percent).8

Gender discrimination doesn’t harm just women; it’s also bad for business. According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, having more women in top-level positions correlates with increased profitability. However, the research finds no evidence that, by itself, having a female CEO is related to increased profitability. Stephen R. Howe Jr., U.S. chairman of the study’s sponsor, EY, remarked, “The impact of having more women in senior leadership on net margin, when a third of companies studies do not, begs the question of what the global economic impact would be if more women rose in the ranks.” 9

We also are potentially losing out on scientific discoveries and innovations. An academic publisher, Elsevier, conducted a study that found that less than 25 percent of research papers on subjects related to the physical sciences were published by women. It’s possible that we are failing to take full advantage of the scientific brainpower of half of the world’s population.10

All of this underlies the necessity for women to have a separate and distinct retirement income plan, even if they are married. With more time out of the workforce, less pay and less opportunity to save and invest for the future, women need to plan for multiple sources of retirement income that are not dependent on spousal benefits.11 We can help you develop strategies through the use of insurance products for retirement income, both as a couple and with either spouse as a survivor. Please feel free to contact us to discuss how we can help.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1World Economic Forum. 2016. “The Global Gender Gap Report.” https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2016. Accessed March 30, 2017.

2Till Leopold and Vesselina Stefanova Ratcheva. World Economic Forum. Oct. 28, 2016. “5 Surprising Facts From This Year’s Gender Gap Report.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/5-surprising-facts-from-this-years-gender-gap-report/. Accessed March 21, 2017.


4Priya Jain. The Huffington Post. March 20, 2017. “Gender Diversity: Are We Asking the Right Questions?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gender-diversity-are-we-asking-the-right-questions_us_58d02650e4b0537abd95737f. Accessed March 21, 2017.

5Antonia Cereijido and Alina Selyukh. NPR. Dec. 21, 2016. “Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech? A Tour of Silicon Valley’s Leaky Pipeline.” http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/21/505864391/why-arent-there-more-women-in-tech-a-tour-of-silicon-valleys-leaky-pipeline. Accessed March 21, 2017.

6Erik Sherman. Fortune. March 26, 2015. “Report: Disturbing Drop in Women in Computing Field.” http://fortune.com/2015/03/26/report-the-number-of-women-entering-computing-took-a-nosedive/. Accessed March 31, 2017.

7Gillian B. White. The Atlantic. March 16, 2017. “Melinda Gates: The Tech Industry Needs to Fix Its Gender Problem — Now.” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/melinda-gates-tech/519762/. Accessed March 21, 2017.

8Tamara Chuang. The Denver Post. March 19, 2017. “Cybersecurity Industry Hopes Women Will Help Fill 1.8 Million Jobs.” http://www.denverpost.com/2017/03/19/cybersecurity-industry-hopes-women-will-help-fill-1-million-jobs/. Accessed March 21, 2017.

9Erik Sherman. Peterson Institute for International Economics. Feb. 8, 2016. “New Peterson Institute Research on Over 21,000 Companies Globally Finds Women in Corporate Leadership Can Significantly Increase Profitability.” https://piie.com/newsroom/press-releases/new-peterson-institute-research-over-21000-companies-globally-finds-women. Accessed March 31, 2017.

10The Economist. March 10, 2017. “The Gender Gap in Science.” http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/03/daily-chart-5?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/. Accessed March 14, 2017.


11Kerry Hannon. The New York Times. March 3, 2017. “Money Worries for Retired Women.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/business/retirement/money-worries-for-retired-women.html?_r=0. Accessed April 11, 2017.