Really? T&T leads Caribbean & Latin America in closing the gender gap

I was glad to read it, but not sure I believed it.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2008 not only listed Trinidad & Tobago as the regional leader in both the Caribbean and Latin America in closing the gender gap, but placed #19 of countries around the world making that kind of progress. The new spot is up 27 places over our ranking in last year’s report.

No, really?

Trinidad and Tobago makes a remarkable climb up the rankings to hold the highest position in the region and to become the only country from the region to hold a place among the global top 20… This is partly due to an improvement in the economic participation and opportunity sub-index, but can be mainly attributed to an increase in the number of women in parliament.

Ah. And I suppose any improvement in the rankings just means things aren’t as bad as they used to be. And countries where women had fewer opportunities actually have greater scope for improvement, and so can climb the ranks with greater impact. But even that argument breaks down in the context of the fact that the United Kingdom is ranked 13th and the United States 27th.

No, really? We’re ranked higher in narrowing the gender gap than the United States?

On the other hand, the Caribbean has always had a schizophrenic kind of culture: there is a distinct patriarchy at play, and misogyny is hardly veiled. Yet at the same time, many “black” societies, owing to the impact of slavery on the emerging society, have strong matriarchal underpinnings. And exam results indicate that at school, girls are significantly outperforming the boys.

Nevertheless, there was a subsequent report in the local newspapers that indicated that men, on average, still make twice the amount as women do for the same job in T&T. Though it seems pay alone is not what the report is measuring.

“The Index assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities. Thus, the Index does not penalise 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 Mr Hausmann, Director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

Laura Tyson, Professor of Business Administration and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, explained: “Our work shows a strong correlation between competitiveness and the gender gap scores…the possible theoretical underpinnings of this link are clear: countries that do not fully capitalise effectively on one-half of their human resources run the risk of undermining their competitive potential. We hope to highlight the economic incentive behind empowering women, in addition to promoting equality as a basic human right.”

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