Data visualization and storytelling


A visual exploration of gender inequality statistics in 2024

Visualizing the gender divide from the classroom to the boardroom

Today, on International Women’s Day, we want to take the opportunity to shine a light on the differences between men and women in work, leadership, and education.

Through clear and engaging visuals, we will take you on a tour of the current state of gender equality, highlighting both the progress made and the challenges that remain.

But, let’s start with some good news: the global gender gap was 68% closed in 2023.

Some areas are further ahead than others. While the global gender gaps in health and education have narrowed, the gap in political empowerment is far from being closed.

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Despite all the progress that has been made, it will still take 131 years to reach full parity, according to the World Economic Forum.

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Out of all regions, Europe has the highest gender parity at 76.3%, followed by North America (75%). The Middle East and North Africa (62.6%) is the region the furthest away from parity.

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The gap in political empowerment visualized

Progress towards gender parity in political empowerment has been uneven and slow in many regions. The data shows that women remain significantly underrepresented in most countries’ political landscapes, particularly in senior positions.

The representation of women in politics contributes to democratic equality and can also lead to policies that address a wider range of social issues and promote gender equality across all areas of society.

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Drop to the top: women in leadership roles

Gender inequality in senior positions remains a significant issue globally. Despite progress in some areas, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles. This disparity only increases the higher the levels of responsibility.

Data from the World Economic Forum shows that the share of women drops significantly from entry-level positions to C-suite positions.

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The Fortune 500 list ranks America’s largest corporations by total revenue. While female representation in the leadership of Fortune 500 companies has been slowly but steadily increasing, women remain significantly underrepresented in top executive positions and boardrooms.

As of February 2024, only 47 of the 500 companies were led by women.

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The Motherhood Penalty

The motherhood penalty refers to the negative impact that having children can have on a woman’s career – and is a significant contributor to gender inequality in the workplace.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), only 61% of women globally were employed or seeking employment in 2022 – compared to 91% of men. This means there was a gender gap in labor force participation rates of 29 percentage points in 2022.

This gap widens to 43 percentage points for couple households with at least one child under six.

While women are less likely to be working when they have children, the opposite can be observed for men, who are more likely to be in the labor force when they have a child under six.

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Not only does having children impact the labor participation of women, but also their earnings. They often face a wage penalty as soon as they give birth, due to working fewer hours or not at all when their children are very young.

A recent academic research paper attempts to quantify this impact. It found that motherhood penalty is present in all six countries examined, although the extent of the penalty varies significantly.

Women in Austria and Germany experience the most significant decrease in income after having their first child, with more than an 80% reduction compared to their earnings before becoming mothers. Even a decade later, their incomes have not fully recovered.

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Access to education is one of the oldest battlegrounds in the fight for gender equality. In the past three decades, the literacy rate of women and girls rose from 59% in 1980 to almost 84% in 2022, a 34.6 pp increase.

Although the world is becoming more literate every year and women are also at their highest rates of literacy ever, there is still an imbalance. Boys and men still have the upper hand, with a 90.3% literacy rate for males 15 and over. However small, these differences translate into millions of girls being out of school.

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On a country-by-country basis, we can also see how males are more favored than females, even though metrics do suggest that these values are improving. The chart below compares literacy rates per country, plotting the earliest and latest values available. Overall, literacy rates have increased for both genders but, as we can see seen, females are still disfavored.

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Progress in reaching gender parity is undeniable, but it hasn’t come equally across regions or education levels. In this case, gender parity means that there is 1 girl per 1 boy in school, ensuring access to education for everyone. Where the value is higher than 1.03, there are more girls enrolled in school than boys, and where the value is lower than 0.97, it’s the opposite.

The data shows that, on average, the world reached gender parity in primary and secondary education around 2010. However, girls have been favored in tertiary education (post-high school) since the 1980s.

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Why visualizing gender inequality data matters

Analyzing and visualizing gender inequality data is paramount for several reasons:

  • Highlight disparities: data visualization makes it easier for a wide audience to understand the extent of gender inequalities, making the issues more accessible and compelling.
  • Track progress: visualizations can effectively communicate the progress towards gender equality goals to the public and stakeholders, holding governments and organizations accountable for their commitments to gender equality.
  • Empower advocacy and mobilization: data-driven evidence of gender inequality can be a powerful tool in advocacy, helping to raise awareness, mobilize support, and lobby for change. Visualizations make the data more engaging and persuasive, helping to spark public interest and galvanize action among activists, NGOs, and the wider community.
  • Enhance transparency and dialogue: Making gender inequality data available and accessible promotes transparency and encourages dialogue among stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, academia, and the public.

We’ve seen significant strides toward equality, but the journey isn’t over. Visualizing this important data helps us move beyond awareness to action and creates tangible change. Join our webinar Leading voices: women in data as our guests share their invaluable insights and personal journeys in the data visualization field.