By Maximilian Clarke

The World Economic Forum has published its Global Gender Gap Report for 2011, showing improved gender equality among 85% of the world’s countries.

For 1 in 5 countries that had seen an increase, the Forum observed government initiatives to boost either female boardroom or government representation.

Crucially, at a time when the world’s economies are threatened with a return to recession, the WEF have identified a direct correlation between countries with close gender equality and high economic competitiveness.

“Smaller gender gaps are directly correlated with increased economic competitiveness,” says Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director of the World Economic Forum and co-author of the report. “With the world’s attention on job creation and economic growth, gender equality is the key to unlocking potential and stimulating economies.”

The UK government is currently attempting to address the female underrepresentation among FTSE 100 companies, via non-mandatory reporting approach outlined in Lord Davies’ report Women on Boards.

Writing on the Forum’s website, Guy Dresser found that although more women are in employment than ever before, major corporations are still not capitalising on their talents, in part explaining the continued disparity.

“Gender gaps close when countries recognize the economic and social imperatives. With the right policies, change can happen very quickly," says co-author Laura Tyson, S.K. and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, USA.

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