At the Women in Public Service Project, our philosophy is simple: in order to get to where we need to go, we must understand where we are today. This is why an evidence base is critical to achieve our 50x50 goal of 50% representation across government sectors and around the world by 2050.

The latest numbers from the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report reveal significant gaps in gender equality globally, both in political participation and other aspects of public life and citizenship. Many of the findings in this report are in line with what we have found in our own Global Women’s Public Leadership Index: while progress is being made, women remain notably absent from key decision-making tables around the world.


Toward Parity in Pathways

We know that pathways to leadership matter – if women have access to the same resources and opportunities as men, they are better equipped to become effective leaders. According the report, more countries than ever – 13 in total – have closed more than 80% of their gaps in economic participation and opportunity. Educational attainment too has increased, with 27 of the 142 countries fully closing their gaps.

Despite these gains, the WEF report tells us that pathways to leadership remain fragile in many parts of the world. Thirty-one countries remain below the global average in economic participation and opportunity, and in 18 countries educational attainment for remains below 90%.

Now that we understand where progress is being made in terms of women's pathways to leadership and where gaps in gender equity lay in economic and education attainment, we can link these factors to political empowerment and public service leadership.The gap in political life for WEF is 77% and has not moved since 2016 and gives us picture of one aspect of public service.

Measuring Political Empowerment

The WEF report reveals that political empowerment remains one of the most elusive facets of gender equality. Only four countries have reached or surpassed the 50% mark closing the gender gap in political empowerment and global leadership; 34 have closed less than 10%.

However, not included in these numbers are other aspects of public service leadership. For example, we know that while women remain underrepresented in parliaments, they make up 44% of the global civil service workforce and nearly 30% of civil service decision-makers. The numbers are also more encouraging at the subnational level: on average, women make up 29% of regional assemblies and 27% of municipal councils.


The findings of the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report reveal new gains and ongoing challenges in efforts toward global gender equality. As we know from our own numbers, each of these factors are linked; if one area is lagging in gender equality, others will fall behind. With the results and analysis from this report it is clearer than ever that efforts to achieve equality must take a comprehensive approach that looks beyond mere representation.

Based on these findings, the World Economic Forum estimates it will take 100 years to reach full gender equality. At the Women in Public Service Project, we still believe we can reach parity in public service by 2050 – but to achieve this, we must first enable women to pursue leadership and give them the tools and resources to contribute their voices in decision-making across countries and sectors.