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Global gender gap could take 134 years to close — but 2024 elections offer hope, WEF says

The 2024 bumper election year presents a unique opportunity to make progress in closing the global gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum.

In a new report published Wednesday, WEF said that while worldwide gender inequality had narrowed marginally over the past year, it had done so at a slower pace than before. It is now estimated to take 134 years — or five generations — to close the global gender gap, up from 131 years in 2023, WEF said.

This year's sweeping election cycle could narrow that gap, however, by boosting women's representation in the political sphere, the non-governmental organization said.

"We cannot wait until 2158 for parity: the time for decisive action is now," Saadia Zahidi, managing director at WEF, said in a press release.

WEF's Global Gender Gap Report, now in its 18th year, is an annual index designed to measure gender equality. It benchmarks gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

Political participation was identified as an area of stark imbalance, despite modest gains at the federal and local level. But with around half of the world's population eligible to vote in scores of elections this year, it is also considered an area of significant potential.

"With over 60 national elections in 2024 and the largest global population in history set to vote, women's political representation and the overall gender gap could be set to improve," the report said.  

That could happen both at the top level, with more leadership positions for women, as well as via policies designed to support and empower women.

Last week, Mexico voted in its first female president Claudia Sheinbaum, whose campaign included