For this year’s International Women’s Day, I thought I would look at the progress in gender parity worldwide. As well as promoting gender equality in the motor and financial services sectors, I am passionate about my belief that gender equality is a global issue that resonates beyond our shores.

Key global gender parity challenges  

There are many, including;

  • COVID-19 Impact - the economic and social consequences of the pandemic and geopolitical conflict paused progress and worsened outcomes for women and girls worldwide. Progress towards closing the gender gap stalled in most countries.
  • Education - nearly half a billion women and girls aged 15 years and over are illiterate. However, estimates show that based on current trends, the educational attainment gender gap can be fully closed in 12 years. The promise of economic empowerment remains unfulfilled.
  • The gender gap in labour force participation among adults (25-54) has stagnated over the past 20 years. Less than two-thirds of women (62%) are in the labour force, compared to 93% of men.
  • Power and decision-making remain overwhelmingly dominated by men. Women’s representation in parliaments has more than doubled from 11% in 1995, but men still hold three-quarters of seats.

Assessing gender parity progress

For sixteen years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has published the Global Gender Data Report, which benchmarks progress. For 2022, this covered 144 countries worldwide.

In 2022, the global gender gap closed to 68.1% (100% being full parity). At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full parity. To put COVID-19’s impact in context, leading up to 2020, the gender gap was set to close within 100 years.

The WEF report contains benchmarks gender gaps across four key areas,

  1. Health and Survival
  2. Educational Attainment
  3. Economic Participation
  4. Political Empowerment

While the first two categories performed at a gender parity of 95.8% and 94.4% (full parity being 100%),  economic participation saw just 60.3% of the global gender gap closed. Political empowerment saw no overall progress against 2021 (remaining at 22%).


Of the 146 countries benchmarked, the WEF index found that no country had yet achieved full gender parity. The countries that had closed the highest percentage of their gender gaps were Iceland (90.8%), Finland (86%) and Norway (84.5%). The UK had closed 78% of its gender gap, ranking 22nd out of 146 countries.

Accelerating gender parity will require significant effort. While it may be more attainable in wealthier, democratic countries, challenges exist in all countries, and no ‘one size fits all’ fixes exist. It is why the International Women’s Day 2023 theme, #EmbraceEquity is so relevant. It is designed to get people thinking about developing solutions targeted at individuals or groups who do not have access to the same opportunities as those around them and get everyone on the same playing field with the ability to play the same game.

When we embrace equity, we embrace diversity, and we embrace inclusion. Equality is the goal; equity is the means to get there.

Addressing gender parity on a global scale is significant. Social, economic, legal and cultural variations abound. It is why a focus on equal opportunities is not enough. People are starting from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.

Nor is the UK or my motor and financial services excluded from the need for equitable solutions.

Anecdotally, I see plenty of initiatives and encouragement in the motor industry to suggest headway and the willingness for progress, the Automotive 30% Club and our GROW Network (Generating Real Opportunities for Women) being just two. However, there is plenty of scope for improvement.

It’s time to double down and keep making the motor industry ever more diverse.

Debbie McKay, Commercial Director of Motor Sales

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