How Gender Equal is the Executive Board of UN Women?

As you were probably aware, last week UN member states elected 41 members of the inaugural executive board of the newest UN entity, UN Women.

As it happens, that election roughly coincided with the release of the 2010 Human Development Index from the UN Development Program.  For the first time, this Human Development Index included a  Gender Inequality Index to measure how states compared to each other on gender equality.  It scored countries according to five indicators — maternal mortality, adolescent fertility, parliamentary representation, educational attainment, and labor force participation—to come up with a ranking.

According to the formula, The Netherlands is the most gender equal country in the world (#1) and The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most gender unequal (#137).

Given the controversy over Saudi Arabia’s election to the executive board of UN Women, I thought it would be interesting to see how the board—taken together—would rank in the gender inequality index.

So, if the UN Women Executive Board were a single country, how would it rank on the Gender Inequality Index?  The average score of the board is 62, which is a spot currently held by Azerbaijan.   Interestingly, even if you left off Saudi Arabia (which ranks a dismal 128), the average score only improves by two points. In this case, excluding Saudi Arabia would make the cumulative average the equivalent of Argentina.

A rank of 62 is squarely in the middle of the pack.   The executive board scores as a whole better than Mexico (68) but not quite as well as Malaysia (50). It turns out that the seemingly deleterious effect of Saudi Arabia or DRC is balanced by countries like Denmark (2) and Sweden (3).

So what conclusions can we draw?  Well, it seems that it is not terribly useful to focus on the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on the executive board to draw a conclusion about the board as a whole; Saudi Arabia and the DRC are balanced by countries with strong records on gender equality.  In any event, the board will have to contend with a very strong director of UN Women in Michelle Bachalet.  One of the advantages of appointing a popular former head of state to run the new agency is that she will have an easy time throwing her weight around should any conflicts arise with individual members of the board.

A note on Methodology: A Nate Silver, I’m not.   Please feel free to check my work.  N.B. There are only 35 countries listed below. That’s because there is no Gender Inequality Index scores available for six of the countries on the executive board.

121 Congo,

137 DRC,

130 Cote D’Ivoire,

102 Lesotho,

52 Libya,

142 Nigeria,

38 China,

116 Bangladesh,

122 India,

100 Indonesia,

67 Kazakhstan,

12 Japan,

50 Malaysia,

112 Pakistan

20 Korea,

39 Estonia,

34 Hungary,

41 Russia,

44 Ukraine,

60 Argentina,

80 Brazil,

87 Dominican Republic,

89 El Salvadore,

74 Peru,

2 Denmark,

11 France,

9 Italy,

24 Luxembourg,

3 Sweden,

68 Mexico,

5 Norway,

14 Spain,

32 UK,

37 USA,

128 Saudi Arabia

Average score: 62