Gender Parity: Africa’s progress stalled – McKinsey

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report prepared with McKinsey & Company, Africa, rates the continent 0.58 percent in 2019, for its Gender Parity Score (GPS). This the same as four years ago for its strides towards achieving gender parity.

The report, ‘The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Africa’ measures progress towards gender equality in work and in society—one is not possible without the other. Generally, gender inequality remains high on the continent.

Progress on gender equality varies enormously among African countries. South Africa has the highest GPS at 0.76, indicating medium gender inequality. Mauritania, Mali, and Niger have GPS scores of less than 50, indicating extremely high inequality.

Lohini Moodley a McKinsey partner in Johannesburg explained that at the current progress rate it would take Africa seven generations or 140 years to achieve gender parity.

She said the progresses were measured against 15 indicators which include maternal health, education, unpaid work care, financial inclusion and digital inclusion among others.

There has been improvement in some countries on some indicators. Rwanda and South Africa have increased women’s representation in middle-management roles by 27 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Algeria has cut maternal mortality rates by around 9 percent.

Egypt has tripled its score, and Guinea and Liberia doubled their scores, on legal protection of women.

Mayowa Kuyoro, a McKinsey consultant in Lagos, said, “There are bright spots within Africa with some countries showing impressive progress on aspects of gender equality. The hope is that they can inspire others to forge ahead with action to empower women in their countries.”

Advancing women’s equality can deliver a significant economic dividend. The research finds that if every country were to match the progress toward gender equality of the African country that has progressed the fastest over the last 5 years, Africa could add $316 billion to GDP by 2025 or 10 percent of current GDP.

R-l Mayowa Kuyoro, Lohini Moodley, Vanessa Moungar

Although Africa’s female labour-force participation rate is above the global average, most African women work in low-paid jobs in the informal sector, and have neither the skills nor the opportunity to advance. The GPS for women’s participation is 0.76 (medium gender inequality) against a global average of 0.64 (high gender inequality).

In Africa’s relatively limited formal sector, the continent has made notable advances on getting more women into executive committees and board positions. Africa has the highest female representation at the board level of any region at 25 percent against a global average of 17 percent and marginally higher than average representation on executive committees at 22 percent.

However, since 2015, progress on increasing women’s presence in middle-management roles has gone backward, on average across Africa by around 1 percent a year. Even for the small proportion of women in formal employment in Africa, there is a significant drop of nearly 50 percent of the share of women in entry-level positions to those in top leadership roles.

Nigeria with a 0.55 score out of 1.00 is rated a country with high inequality. On gender equality at work, and essential services and enablers of economic opportunity, the country is rated high at 0.58 and 0.62, respectively.

According to the analysis, Nigeria is also doing extremely poorly in giving women legal protection and political voice and rates her 0.18. with regards physical security and autonomy Nigeria rates high at 0.82. the analysis reflects that many countries gravely lack GPS in the area of unpaid work care with most countries rated as low as 0.13 as only Nigeria and Zimbabwe rate best at 0.66 and 0.52, respectively.

The report finds that accelerating progress towards parity could boost African economies by the equivalent of 10 percent of their collective GDP by 2025.

Mckinsey advocates that, to achieve new impetus towards gender parity, all stakeholders need to act in five priority areas.

Africa needs new impetus in its journey towards gender parity. Making progress on any single indicator of gender inequality is likely to require systematic action on a range of indicators by governments, companies, communities, and individual men and women.

The report highlights five areas to prioritise action.

It calls for investment in human capital. Human capital plays a vital role in driving sustained economic growth and boosting productivity, and it is imperative that countries invest sufficient resources in girls’ education and in women’s skills as well as their digital, financial, and legal literacy so that they are equipped for the future world of work. At the same time, action to ensure that healthcare is affordable and accessible is vital to ensure that human capital is as effective as possible.

Creating economic opportunities is another intervention recommended in the report. Women need economic opportunities if countries are to realize the full potential of their human capital. Creating pathways for African women—the vast majority of whom work informally in low-paid jobs—into better-paid and more fulfilling jobs is a major priority. Action should focus on improving the quality of jobs in the informal sector or by enabling women to leave informal work and find improved working prospects in the formal sector. In our research we focus on interventions in the formal sector, highlighting four priorities: company leaders propelling change from the top with a clear strategy and targets; putting in place creating a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment; unlocking opportunities for women-owned businesses; and developing public and household infrastructure.

The report advocates leveraging technology. Digital and internet technology is spreading throughout Africa and can be the lever that opens many doors to women, helping to overcome current challenges on a number of indicators of gender equality. Many applications of these technologies apply to both men and women, but the onus is on providers to ensure that they are designed with a gender lens so that women can take full advantage of them. Priorities include creating women-friendly products to drive digital inclusion; and spreading the use of digital to raise financial inclusion and empower female entrepreneurs.


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