by Lorenzo Piccoli

Last week the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its annual report on the worldwide gender-gap. Iceland was ranked first for the fifth year running, closely followed by other northern European countries. In most of the other places, and indeed in most of the other places in Europe, the situation is not looking as good. Overall, the report showed that the gap is narrowing, but only very slowly.

Encouragingly, the report also showed that on a handful of indicators women are ahead of men. The indicator on which women come out most clearly on top is life expectancy. Thanks more to biology than good policies, women outlive men virtually everywhere. A more recent development is that women are pulling ahead in education. Women are more likely than men to go to university in 90 of 131 countries surveyed. Better education increasingly means better jobs: in 62 of 113 countries surveyed, women are more likely than men to have “professional or technical” jobs.

If I look at my university, however, the situation is puzzling, at best. I did not find the actual numbers online, so I decided to count by myself. And for two very good methodological reasons – I did not want to waste too much time and I am lazy in maths – I decided to take into account my department only and refraining from gathering the data across all the departments. As a result, my sample is extremely small: my professors would say this is not enough to run a significant regression. However. Here are the numbers: as for the students, those admitted to the Ph.D. programme last year were 18 men and 13 women. Last year the ratio was 22 to 17. Not much of a difference, arguably. But the gap seems huge if I look at the professors: 13 are men, 2 are women. This may not be significant, but indeed it is in line with the findings of the report, and – for what matters – with the ratio of the universities where I studied before. The gap may be narrowing, but women are still on the wrong side of it.