A recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives lamented the “double-paned glass ceiling” in Canada’s private sector. According to the CCPA, female executives not only have trouble reaching the executive suite, they only earn 68 cents on the dollar when they get there.
Drilling down into the report reveals that much of the difference is due to variable compensation — things like bonuses and stock options. Base salary only accounted for 27 per cent of Canadian executive compensation, and it seems that men have been more successful than women in getting those income-boosting, tax-advantaged perks.
Then again, money isn’t everything. A fascinating new study claims that, all things considered, women are better off than men is 91 of 134 nations studied, including Canada, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.
How’d they get that idea? It has a lot to do with men’s health.
Gijsbert Stoet of the University of Essex and David C. Geary of the University of Missouri created a new index they call Basic Index of Gender Equality (BIGI). It aims to measure “sex differences in the opportunity to lead a long healthy and satisfied life that is grounded in educational opportunities.” BIGI combines three scores with equal weighting: basic educational opportunities; healthy life expectancy; and overall life satisfaction.
Of course, it’s the oldest trick in the book to cook up a new index that supports some desired outcome or conclusion. And measuring things like overall life satisfaction is fraught with problems. Also, why combine the three factors equally? Isn’t that rather arbitrary?
Still, it’s worth hearing the surprising reason why these researchers felt a new measure was necessary, and how it can give us a fuller picture of male and female well-being.
Since 2006, we’ve had the widely accepted Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) which comes from the World Economic Forum. It measures women’s participation in the economy; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
It should come as no surprise that, on the 2017 GGGI, Iceland, Norway and Finland led the pack, with Syria, Pakistan and Yemen showing the greatest disadvantage for women. Canada ranked 16th and the U.S. came 50th — behind countries like Moldova and Mozambique.
But wait a minute, say the BIGI creators. Since it’s intended to measure female progress, or lack of it, the GGGI simply discards any data where women are better off than men. As noted in the 350-page GGGI report, “Truncating the data at the equality benchmarks for each assigns the same score to a country that has reached parity between women and men and one where women have surpassed men.”
In a University of Missouri press release, Stoet and Geary also argue against this approach. They also note that some components of the GGGI, like percentage of top-level politicians who are female, aren’t very relevant to the average person’s life.
They believe it’s more honest, and revelatory, to incorporate data points where women have the upper hand. They also wanted to prevent an advantage in one area from cancelling out a disadvantage in another, so they dropped the plus and minus signs to produce another index — the Average Absolute Deviation from Gender Parity (AADP).
When they did that, as shown at bigi.genderequality.info, Bahrain, Great Britain and the Netherlands led the AADP pack, with Liberia, Benin and Chad bringing up the rear with the biggest gender parity gaps. Canada came in 17th and the U.S. was 34th.
Developed countries where it’s better to be a guy include Singapore and Israel, but just by a little bit. Maleness is also an apparent asset in Italy, China and Bolivia, plus a lot of places you probably aren’t going to consider living like Benin and Burkina Faso.
Why are men’s lives shorter in almost every country? Aside from any natural male proclivity for risk-taking, there are external factors like harsher punishments for the same crime, compulsory military service, and more occupational deaths.
Alcohol overuse and obesity are also relevant, and “men consume more alcohol than women in all nations.” Interestingly, the study found that “a higher proportion of overweight men is almost uniquely observed in countries where BIGI favours women. Countries in which women are more disadvantaged than men all show a higher proportion of overweight women.” That’s certainly food for thought.
The authors conclude that “the most developed countries in the world come closest to achieving gender equality, albeit with a slight advantage for women. In the least developed countries, women nearly always fall behind men.”
No index is without its problems, and the authors note that their approach is just another tool to help understand global gender issues. The main takeaway for us is the significant room for improvement in men’s health and life expectancy.
The authors point out that many countries have strategies for women’s health but far fewer have one for men. They single out Ireland and Australia as countries that have made good progress on this.
Ultimately, health and lifestyle choices are individual, so that makes this a great time to think about ways to boost your own healthy lifespan and overall life satisfaction. You might also pause to thank a teacher, since your fine education has allowed you to read all about this.
Dr. Tom Keenan is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, and author of the best-selling book, Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy
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