Wednesday 08, March 2017 by Jessica Combes

INSEAD Releases Gender Progress Index on International Women's Day

INSEAD has launched the Gender Progress Index that takes a holistic view towards gender issues. 

The findings of the Index were discussed at a half day seminar marking International Women’s Day at the INSEAD Middle East Campus in Abu Dhabi, and were presented by Dr. Kai L. Chan, Distinguished Fellow, Innovation & Policy Initiative, INSEAD.  

Miguel Sousa Lobo, Associate Professor of Decision Sciences, Director of the Middle East Campus, INSEAD delivered the welcome note. “It is important to understand the complexity around gender roles in a globalized world in order to develop different strategies to minimize gender gaps that differ across cultures and across domains–economic, health, legal, and others,” he said. 

During her address, guest speaker Helen Al Uzaizi, Chief Executive Officer, BizWorld UAE, cited personal examples of the challenges of being a woman is a male-dominated environment; she first encountered it when doing her practical component of her law degree. As a 19-year old she was regularly asked whose daughter she was and whether she was married, and anything else not related to why she was in a court room. The experience drove her away from law once she completed her degree. 

Al Uzaizi recalled the difficulty of having to resign from a very high level position because she couldn’t reconcile the job’s travel requirements with being a wife and mother of two. It was a tough decision that further reinforced the challenges of being a career-driven woman when employers do not afford their female staff the flexibility to be there for their families.  

Al Uzaizi added that going beyond society and the workplace it can sometimes seem that even governments and their beaurocracy are working against women. “I had to travel to Qatar for work. I was rejected entry at the airport because my husband was not with me. I was on a spouse visa and I had a labour card. I asked if they would accept an NOC stating that my husband would not mind me travelling and I was told no. He would have to leave work for a day to escort me to Qatar. Of course this ended up affecting my relationship with my then employer.” 

Developed to help societies reach the full potential of both sexes, without prejudice on the gender of outcomes, the Index considers the relative performance of men versus women with no distinction between the two; i.e. male underperformance of female outcomes is equal to the inverse. 

As part of the methodology that uses the Cobb-Douglas function, the Index covered five dimensions: education; health; labour; politics and power and society. The Index is robust in that there is a trade-off between levels and ratios: a country cannot improve on the Index by merely having one of the gender-level indicators regress. Likewise, it allows comparisons, across countries on two dimensions, how they are doing in absolute progress; and how they are faring internally between the sexes. 

“The Index will enable policy makers to better understand the problems within society and focus on where effort should be placed in ensuring that their nation’s full potential is realized. It is about assessing which countries are doing the best at achieving the full potential of both sexes. There are more obstacles to women, but society progresses when both genders are able to maximize their outcomes. So far, other gender reports have focused exclusively on either the level of gender progress or the ratio between men and women (i.e. absolute progress vs relative progress). In order for the GCC countries to perform higher on the Index they need to ensure a more balanced development,” said Chan. 

Achieving high absolute (level) and relative (ratio) outcomes for the two sexes, Norway topped the index followed by Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Iceland, Germany, Canada and France. The UAE ranked 85 on the list that comprised 122 countries, with the two genders faring more or less equally especially in education, based on metrics including schooling years, science degrees, tertiary enrolment rate and average PISA scores. 

In December 2016, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, assigned the UAE Gender Balance Council to support the implementation of the ‘Gender Inequality Index’ issued annually by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In line with the UAE Vision 2021, the Index has been designed to enhance the country’s efforts in driving women’s participation in national development. His Highness has also instructed the Council to oversee the ‘Gender Inequality Index’ and the implementation of best practices and processes to ensure federal institutions achieve their gender balance targets, which will support the UAE’s vision to become one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021.  

The seminar featured several women leaders in the Middle East who have made a significant contribution to the region and society, including Khawla Al Serkal, Director General, Sharjah Ladies Club; Helen Al Uzaizi, Chief Executive Officer, BizWorld UAE, Leena Khalil Co-Founder, Mumzworld.com; Hanan Darwish, Cluster President, Gulf and Pakistan, Schneider Electric; Sara Mohamed, Managing Partner, Executive-Women; Dunia Othman, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, mrUsta.

  

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