The latest Global Gender Gap report was released earlier this week where Pakistan was ranked as the second-worst country in terms of gender parity, placed 145 out of 146 states. The report ranks 146 countries around the world, and Pakistan finds itself in the bottom five along with Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Chad. The report has once again ignited a debate over the myriad of factors that contribute to this ranking and how Pakistan can improve its standing.

The ranking also does not come as much of a surprise given past trends, and the report evaluates a very specific set of metrics so not a lot of variation can be expected every year. It must be mentioned however that according to the report, Pakistan has closed 56.4 percent of the gap in 2022, which is the highest overall level of parity the country has posted since the report was launched in 2006.

The improvement has been witnessed across three subindexes, with the highest positive variation in economic participation and opportunity. Even though wage equality carries the highest gender gap score among economic indicators, advances were also reported in estimated earned income, where women’s earnings increased by four percent compared to 2021. It is also pertinent to mention that the report does not take into account the informal sector which witnessed the entry of many women and children after the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, Pakistan has a long way to go before it can take pride in its progress on this end considering the wide variety of barriers faced by women in multiple spheres. It is important to remember that Pakistan is also ranked the second-worst country in the region, only ahead of Afghanistan. There are multiple factors at play here and a lot needs to be done both at the policy and societal levels.

This is not just a matter of education as this issue is present across classes and even found in a lot of institutions and corporations. A lot of institutions in the country are dominated by men where competent women are not allowed to rise to the top positions. This explains why women in Pakistan have the smallest share of senior, managerial and legislative roles at a mere 4.5 percent. This is especially evident in sectors like health and education that are essentially being run by women, but the upper hierarchy is primarily composed of men. What we need as a nation is a radical change in mindset to do away with a narrow perception of what roles women can and should play in our society.