Global Women’s Progress Report

I have criticized sloppy statistical work by some international feminist organizations, so I’m glad to have a chance to point out a useful new report and website.

The Progress of the World’s Women is from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The full-blown site has an executive summary, a long report, and a statistics index page with a download of the complete spreadsheet. Below, I’ve selected a few of the interesting graphics.

Skewed sex ratios (which I’ve written about here and here) are in the news with the publication of Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl. The report shows some of the countries with the most skewed sex ratios, reflecting the practice of parents aborting female fetuses. With the exception of Korea, they’ve all gotten more unbalanced since ultrasounds became more widely available in the 1990s, allowing parents to find out the sex of the fetus early in the pregnancy.













The most egregious inequality between women in different regions of the world is probably in maternal mortality. This chart shows, for example, that the chance of a woman dying during pregnancy or birth is about 39 times higher in Africa than Europe. The chart also shows how many of those deaths are from unsafe abortions.

Finally, I made this one myself, showing women as a percentage of parliament in most of the world’s rich countries (this spreadsheet has the whole list). The U.S., with 90 women out of 535 members of Congress, comes in at 17 percent.

The report focuses on law and justice issues, including rape and violence against women, as well as reparations, property rights and judicial reform. It boils down its conclusions to “Ten proven approaches to make justice systems work for women”:

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain [Note: this refers to rape cases, for example, not making their way from charge to conviction]

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions in conflict and post-conflict contexts

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals

This article is cross-posted at Family Inequality.

Images from the original UN Women Report.


Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, where his research concerns inequality and families. He is at work on a family sociology textbook, and he writes the Family Inequality blog.