Today, we join millions around the world who are celebrating the cultural, social, economic and political achievement of women. Why #PressforProgress? We have a long way to go before we reach gender parity. Whether striking, rallying or sponsoring movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, women and men are challenging gender inequality in their public and private lives. Never has the slogan The personal is political seemed so apt. 

Globally women disproportionately occupy low and medium skilled jobs, even in developed countries, and often constitute the majority of the informal labour market. According to ILO.org, world-wide over 586 million women are own-account or contributing family workers. 

In Asia-Pacific, only 30% of women are in non-agriculture employment, with only 20% in South Asia – the lowest region in the world. A study carried out in 2014 by The Work Foundation showed that the proportion of young women doing low paid, low skilled jobs in the UK has trebled for the last twenty years. In the US, 29% of women work part-time compared to 15% of men, and constitute the majority of the low wage workforce at 59%. 

It is not simply a question of improving women’s education. Since 2003, globally women have overtaken men in educational attainment. Even at entry level, fewer female university graduates are hired than men despite making up the majority of graduates. 

In the EU-28, 57.6% of all grads are women and in the US, 37% of women hold at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 34.9% of men. In Asia-Pacific, a survey conducted by MasterCard revealed that women outnumbered men in 10 out of 16 markets in gross tertiary education enrolment rate. However, women are still underrepresented in certain fields, such as science and engineering, and over-represented in others, such as education and health. 

In 2014, on average three times more men than women graduated with an engineering degree, and four times more women than men graduated with a degree in education. Graduates in engineering earn on average 10% more than other tertiary-educated adults, while those in education earn about 15% less – contributing to gender disparity in earnings as well as industry representation. 

Even in other fields, women continue to be underrepresented in senior roles and they are more likely to be passed over for promotion. Women hold just under a quarter of senior positions (24%) worldwide: a marginal increase of 3% over five years. A third of global businesses have no women in senior management, a figure that hasn’t improved since 2011. In a recent report, Catalyst estimates that at the current rate of change, gender parity will not be reached until 2060. Worldwide, women only hold 15% of board seats.

In the US there are small signs of improvement, across all senior roles in 2016, 23% were held by women, a record high since 2007. Yet, the percentage of businesses with no women at all in senior positions increased to almost a third (31%). In 2017, women represented 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats, and only 4.6% were CEOs.

In Europe, the picture from 2016 was less promising, though women make up 45% of the workforce they are proportionally underrepresented in senior positions. Among the largest publicly listed companies in the European Union (EU-28), only5% of CEOs and 15% of executives were women. 

In Asia-Pacific, a disparity emerged between the developed and developing regions for women’s representation in senior roles. According to the Grant Thornton International Business Report, in developing APAC there has been an increase overall from 26% in 2016 to 29% in 2017. In developed APAC however, only 13% of senior roles were held by women, a figure that has stagnated over the last three years. Overall in Asia-Pacific, only 7.8% of board seats are occupied by women.

March 8th is a day for celebrating the achievements of women worldwide, but it's also a time to recognise how far we still have to come. The World Economic forum estimates that it will take 217 years for disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women to end. Let's pledge today to reach gender parity within our lifetime.