NEW YORK — In a year of some major successes for women — the Nobel Peace Prize, the commanding performances of Angela Merkel and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the end of men-first in the line of succession to the British throne — a new worldwide study concludes that women remain well behind men in two crucial areas: economic equality and political power.
Women hold fewer than 20 percent of all decision-making national positions, says the World Economic Forum’s sixth annual Global Gender Gap Report 2011, released on Tuesday at the organization’s office in New York. And while 85 percent of the 135 countries in the survey, representing more than 93 percent of the world’s population, made some progress in women’s health and education levels, relatively few showed marked advances for women in economic and political parity since the first survey came out in 2006. Tuesday’s conference focused on the need for governments and the private sector to implement and enforce laws and policies that promote women’s economic and political roles.
“A world where women make up less than 20 percent of the global decision-makers is a world that is missing a huge opportunity for growth and ignoring an untapped reservoir of potential,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, echoing a view that is gaining ground at least among big multinationals. I.B.M., for example, just added walk to its talk on women, appointing Virginia M. Rometty as its first female chief executive.