The race towards gender parity hit a depressing low.
The World Economic Forum's (WEF) latest Global Gender Gap Report 2016 estimates that we won't achieve this milestone until the year 2186! The same report in 2014 estimated parity by 2095.
Think about that for a minute. In just two years the forecast for global gender parity has been pushed back 91 years. It is now 170 years away.
It sounds crazy, but by the time we reach that milestone, future politicians will be campaigning to our grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren about their expectations for the 23rd century.
This is more than just a setback – it also comes at a bad time. The report is especially disheartening at this point in history where we are seeing massive changes as a result of the disruptive forces of technology. Having women participating in all aspects of society and contributing to decision-making as peers is not just nice to have; instead, it is essential to tackling the 21st century challenges we face.
The Global Gender Gap Report provides annual benchmarks of progress toward parity between men and women in four areas: educational attainment; health and survival; economic opportunity; and political empowerment. In this latest edition, WEF states that progress toward parity in the economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 41% globally – now larger than at any point since 2008.
Of course, results vary across the world. The Nordic countries consistently lead as the most gender equal countries, while the United States now sits at number 45 in the country rankings, having dropped 17 places since last year. The report states:
The report speaks for itself and provides great detail on each country's position. While results vary for each country, I believe there are also some prevailing moods around the world that add to the overall narrative:
Our people are everywhere in the world. While part of EY, they also go home to their families and friends and they are active in their local communities. I have seen the profound effect a multinational workplace can have in building communities, engaging people in finding out about each other and fostering positive attitudes toward people who come from backgrounds different to one’s own. Women. Fast forward builds on this experience and aims to accelerate the pace of achieving gender parity and diversity in our workplaces, and also in our wider societies.
Despite yesterday's news and prevailing attitudes, I see encouraging signs that show the trend can be reversed at EY, similar organizations and select parts of the world. One such recent example came from Australia where nearly half of the top 200 listed companies appointed women to their executive boards for the first time ever this year. More countries in the G20 in the last year have elected women to leadership positions and are advancing women in the civil service every day. And here at EY we continue to make strides promoting women into our partnership every year.
Sometimes it is the seemingly small changes that make the biggest difference – encouraging girls into STEM, supporting a young woman’s career choice, actively promoting women into leadership roles, supporting women entrepreneurs, creating opportunities to start businesses – and most importantly, recognizing every day that talent and capability come in many forms and do not always look, sound or act the same. Embracing diversity of all kinds is nothing if not an asset to any organization and society. Let's work together to accelerate gender parity within our lifetime – and make sure the numbers never go backward again.
The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.
A version of this article also appeared in The Huffington Post.