Sexes equal in education, women lack power: study

Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:29am EST
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Women still lag far behind men in top political and decision-making roles, a waste of talent given that their access to education and healthcare is nearly equal, the World Economic Forum said on Wednesday.

In its 2008 Global Gender Gap report, the think tank ranked Norway, Finland and Sweden as the countries with the greatest equality between the sexes, while Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen were the least equal.

Averaging 130 national scores, the report found that girls and women have reached near-parity with their male peers in educational attainment, health and survival, in both rich and poor countries.

But economically, in terms of workforce participation and earning opportunities, and politically, in terms of empowerment, the gap between the sexes remains large.

"The world's women are nearly as educated and as healthy as men, but are nowhere to be found in terms of decision-making," said Saadia Zahidi of the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based think tank best known for its Davos summit held in January.

"Given that women have almost closed the gap with men on health and education, it is a waste of their talents if they are not catching up in economics and politics," she said.

The report uses United Nations and other data to weigh how evenly each country shares its resources and opportunities between men and women.

"The index does not penalize those countries that have low levels of education overall, for example, but rather those where the distribution of education is uneven between women and men," said study co-author Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University.   Continued...

<p>Police officers are seen silhouetted during a military ceremony in Bogota February 27, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Duran</p>