South African women are catching up with men when it comes to startups and entrepreneurialism, according to the The No Ceilings Full Participation report, published last week. The report was commissioned by the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative, and collected data recorded from 1995 to analyse the gains made for the promotion of women and girls’ rights in 190 countries over the last 20 years, in order to identify the gaps that still need to bridged.

According to the report, in 2001 8.7% of South African men aged between 18 and 65 were involved in early stage entrepreneurial activity compared to 4.5% of women: almost double the proportion. The good news in 2013 is that the gap has closed to 9% of women compared to 12.3% of men.

It’s not the only piece of progress. Globally, the ratio of pupils entering primary school education has risen from 92 girls for every 100 boys in 1995, to 96 girls for every 100 today.

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The report looked at areas such as health, education, technology, politics, security and legislation, and the data has been published both in a raw format on Github and as an interactive map on the No Ceilings site. The authors note that in many cases the data is poor quality, though, and are asking for help to improve it.

One thing that it does show are the areas where many African countries are getting left behind. For example, while life expectancy for females globally has gone from 69 years in 1995 to 73 years now, sub-Saharan Africa still lags: here it’s a mere 57 years, mostly because of the rise of HIV infection rates which have doubled over the years.

Screenshot (428)As governments worldwide are pressurised to include more women in top position, data shows that almost twice as many women hold political office today compared with 20 years ago, but they are still fall far behind in numbers.

“Women occupy 22 percent of seats in national legislatures, up from 12 percent in 1997.43 Surveys in many countries show that people still believe men make better political leaders than women,” the report states.

As much as there is “good story to tell”(like our president Jacob Zuma likes to say) in most areas, the outlook for women in terms of economic participation doesn’t look as promising.

According to the report, women’s participation in the labour force has stagnated for two decades and they still earn less than men. Only 55% of women globally form part of the labour force, compared to 82% of men and less than three in 10 countries have prohibited gender discrimination in both hiring and pay. Almost two thirds of countries in sub-Saharan Africa restrict the types of job women can do.

Screenshot (430)“The data in this report show us significant progress is possible. A girl born today is more likely than her mother to be educated, to get a good job, and to live to see her own children grow to be healthy adults. The data also show that despite the successes since 1995, much work remains to realize the promise of the Beijing Platform for Action and the full participation of women and girls,” the report concludes. The Beijing Platform for Action was a set of goals established at a UN conference in the Chinese city in 1995.

You can look up more data and interactive maps on the The No Ceilings Full Participation report site. We’re going to dig around in the data and see what other stories we can find.

[Source: The No Ceilings Full Participation report, Image: CC Information is Beautiful]