This Year’s UN Report on the World’s Women: The Rundown

coverWW2010By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

Last Wednesday, in recognition of World Statistics Day, the UN released The World’s Women 2010. The report covers a broad range of data and trends on women around the globe – 284 pages of data, in fact – so we’ve put together a review of the most salient information to be useful and easily accessible for you, our readers.

  • Still Plenty of Work to Do
    In his opening letter, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon writes, “The World’s Women 2010 is intended to contribute to the stocktaking being done to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Conference. …It finds that progress in ensuring the equal status of women and men has been made in many areas, including school enrolment, health and economic participation.”

    But, he continued, “At the same time, it makes clear that much more needs to be done, in particular to close the gender gap in public life and to prevent the many forms of violence to which women are subjected.”

  • Many More Men than Women
    There are 57 million more men than women. The gender imbalance is especially largest in the youngest generations, and is most dramatic in India and China. In age groups over 50, there are more women than men. The report does not speculate on possible causes for the imbalance.
  • Changes in Marriage Trends
    Across the board, but especially in developed nations, people are marrying at increasingly later ages. In Europe, for example, women are waiting until after 30 for marriage.
  • Birthrate Declining Globally
    The global birthrate has declined to 2.5 births per woman. The report notes that, on average, women who have more children have fewer opportunities economically and educationally.
  • Literacy Rates
    According to the report, despite facing significant educational and economic disadvantages, women make up two-thirds of the world’s literates. This number has not changed for 20 years.
  • Labor Rates
    At 52%, women make up over half of the global workforce. Women work more hours per day than men, on average, too. Plus, they do, on average, twice as much unpaid housework across the globe.
  • The Global Power Gap
    Women hold fewer positions of power than men, globally. According to the report, “Women are significantly underrepresented among legislators, senior officials and managers, craft and related trade workers, and plant and machine operators and assemblers; they are heavily overrepresented among clerks, professionals, and service and sales workers.”

    The power gap and continued job segregation “has resulted in a persistent gender pay gap everywhere.”

    The report notes that the glass ceiling is alive and kicking: “Of the 500 largest corporations in the world, only 13 have a female chief executive officer.”

  • Women Suffer Disproportionately from Hardships
    Violence against women persists globally, and is a serious concern. Infrastructural and environmental factors like access to clean water, energy, and waste disposal disproportionately affect women negatively. And by and large, more women than men suffer from the effects of poverty.

The release of this data comes at a time when it can be put to good use in improving life for the global population. The world is becoming a smaller place; we can communicate across boarders and time zones, and we are able to talk to and work with individuals who are very different from us. Companies with a global reach can use this information to improve cultural understanding – and improve conditions in the communities in which they operate. By taking stock of where women stand on both individual and macro levels, we can work toward improving life for the world’s women – which really means improving the world. We can build a more fair and inclusive global culture – economically, politically, and within communities and families.