As we navigate through the world, it becomes increasingly clear that gender equality is not only a basic human right, but also a critical aspect of sustainable development. The gender gap, which refers to the gender disparities between men and women in terms of economic, social, and political opportunities and outcomes, is a pervasive issue that affects individuals, communities, and entire societies. However, despite its prevalence, the gender gap is not an insurmountable obstacle. By understanding the causes and consequences of the gender gap, and implementing strategies to address it, we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable world. In this discussion, we will delve into the various ways in which we can help close the gender gap and why it's important to do so.
Gender Equality and its Importance
Gender equality refers to equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for individuals of all genders, with the goal of achieving a balanced distribution of economic opportunities and resources. This includes equal access to:
- Political representation
- Freedom from discriminatory laws, harassment, harmful practices and violence
Gender equity acknowledges that individuals may have different needs and experiences based on their gender, and it strives to address these differences in a way that promotes fairness and equality for all. For example, a gender-equitable society would provide affordable childcare facilities for working mothers. This would ensure more equitable access to employment and education for women's economic empowerment.
The Ongoing Struggle for Gender Equality
Women still have only three quarters of the legal rights afforded to men. Despite some progress in areas like health and education, significant gender inequality persists in several domains. Furthermore, it is usually girls and women who face the highest level of gender issues. This is especially true for nations in the Middle East.
According to the latest Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum, it would take 115 years to achieve gender parity at the current rate of progress in the region. The only other place with a lower score was South Asia.
Other challenges to women's equality include:
Gender pay gap
Women often earn less than men for the same work. This can hinder women's economic empowerment. South Korea has the worst gender pay gap of any rich country in the world. On average, women are paid a third less than men.
Lack of representation in political and leadership positions
Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in politics, the workplace, and other areas of public life. This affects their ability to inform policies and participate in decision-making processes. In Latin America, women hold only 15% of management positions.
Women are disproportionately affected by violence, both in the private sphere and public spaces. 30% of women have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. According to UN Women, many women in Sri Lanka hold concerning attitudes towards domestic violence and gender equality. 35.3 per cent of women agreed that men may have valid reasons to physically abuse their wives. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue, with an increase in reported cases of violence against women in the country.
Unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work
Women often bear the majority of child care, unpaid work, household chores, and domestic work. This limits their ability to participate in paid work and other activities.
Social norms and cultural attitudes
In the Middle East, families see marriage as a means of care and protection for their daughters. As a result, early marriage is prevalent throughout the region. In 2021, nearly one in five young women were married before the age of 18. Plus, up to 10 million adolescent girls are likely to be subjected to child marriage by 2030 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, data from the United Nations indicates that at least 200 million girls and women today have been subjected to female genital mutilation.
Lack of affordable childcare
This is a problem present even in the world's wealthiest countries, like the United States. Lack of affordable childcare can negatively impact economic growth by limiting the ability of parents, particularly mothers, to participate in the workforce. This can lead to a decrease in productivity and economic output.
Limited access to education and healthcare
As per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education is a fundamental human right for everyone. Yet, nearly 1 in 4 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the world today are not employed, in school, or undergoing training. This is compared to 1 in 10 boys.
Gender inequality also disproportionately affects women and girls. It limits their status and control over decision-making in their own lives, exposing them to violence and harmful practices. Women and girls are at higher risk for unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, cervical cancer, malnutrition, and depression. Barriers such as restricted mobility, lack of autonomy, limited access to finances, low literacy rates, and discriminatory healthcare providers prevent them from accessing critical health information and services.
Food insecurity and gender equality
While women are responsible for half of the world's food production, they only receive a small fraction of assistance for agricultural investments.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women receive less than 10 percent of small farm credits. However, experts estimate that, if women had the same inputs as men, household agricultural output could increase between 10 to 20 percent.
Overall, empowering female farmers is critical to lifting rural communities out of poverty, avoiding economic crises, and promoting food security.
Why Gender Inequality Affects Everyone
In countries with greater gender inequality, simply closing the gap in women's labor force participation could increase economic output by an average of 35 percent.
Gender inequality is not just a women's issue, it affects everyone. It is a fundamental human rights violation and a barrier to achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Men and women should be equal partners in society, yet this is often not the case. The fact that gender remains one of the most consistent indicators of inequality worldwide is a reflection of the deep-seated power imbalances that continue to exist. We must recognize that these imbalances have consequences, not just for women, but for all people.
To truly achieve gender equality, we must commit ourselves to dismantling the systems of oppression that perpetuate these imbalances. This requires a multifaceted approach that includes changing societal attitudes, strengthening national laws and policies, and ensuring that women's rights are protected and promoted at all levels. Only by working together, can we create better outcomes for all. Gender equality is not just a matter of justice and human rights, it is also a matter of practicality and common sense. Only when everyone is able to reach their full potential, can we truly achieve an equitable and sustainable future for all.
Closing the Gender Gap
The future of gender equality is uncertain and will depend on a number of factors, including global economic and political developments, technological advancements, and societal attitudes towards gender.
Several strategies have already been implemented by civil society organizations and governments such as:
1. UN Women
This is the United Nations' entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN women focuses on ensuring that:
- Women lead, participate in and benefit equally from governance systems
- Women have income security, decent work and economic autonomy
- All women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence
- Women and girls contribute to and have greater influence in building sustainable peace and resilience,
- Women and girls benefit equally from the prevention of natural disasters, conflicts and humanitarian action.
In addition, UN Women works on positioning gender equality as fundamental to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It also assists the member states to hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments to gender equality.
2. The European Union (EU) Gender Equality Strategy
The European Union (EU) Gender Equality Strategy is a comprehensive plan adopted by the EU to promote gender equality and the rights of women within member states and the EU. The strategy sets out a range of actions and initiatives aimed at eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for women and men, girls and boys in employment, education, and political representation.
The strategy covers the period from 2020 to 2025 and is built around three main pillars:
- Equality in the labor market: this includes measures to promote equal pay and support work-life balance for both men and women.
- Ending gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims: this includes measures to combat violence against women and girls, promote gender-sensitive justice systems, and support victims.
- Equality in decision-making: this includes measures to increase the representation of women in political and economic decision-making, and promote gender mainstreaming in all EU policies and legislation.
Strategies to Promote Gender Equality
There are a number of strategies that can be implemented to close the gender gap and promote gender equality. In less developed countries, closing the gender gap can be more challenging due to a number of factors such as cultural attitudes, lack of resources, and limited access to education and healthcare. However, there are still a number of strategies that can be implemented to promote gender equality:
1. Provide education and training
A single year of primary school has been shown to increase women’s wages later in life by 10 to 20 percent. The returns to female secondary education are between 15 and 25 percent.
Education is a key driver of gender equality and is critical for breaking the cycle of poverty. Investing in education and training programs for women and girls can help to break down barriers to employment and promote economic empowerment.
Technology can also be used to provide education and training opportunities for women and girls who may not have access to traditional classroom settings. This can include online courses and virtual classrooms.
2. Promote women's participation in the workforce
Encouraging more women to enter and stay in the workforce can help to close the gender pay gap and promote economic equality. When women participate in the economy outside of the household, it results in positive outcomes not only for them, but also for girls and society as a whole. This includes improved health, decreased domestic violence against women, and increased economic growth.
3. Ensure the equal access of women to justice
This can be achieved through a variety of ways:
- Address gender bias in the legal system
- Increase the representation of women in the legal profession
- Provide legal aid and support services for women
- Promote alternative forms of dispute resolution such as mediation
- Review and amend laws and regulations that discriminate against women
- Create awareness and education on women's rights
4. Provide affordable childcare
Lack of affordable childcare can be a major barrier to women's participation in the workforce. Providing affordable childcare options can help to promote gender equality in the workplace.
5. Improve access to healthcare
Improving access to healthcare, including maternal and reproductive health services, can help to promote gender equality in less developed countries. This can be achieved through programs such as community health workers and mobile health clinics.
6. Encourage women's participation in politics and decision-making
Only 21 percent of government ministers are women. Women's participation in politics and decision-making is critical for achieving gender equality. Encouraging more women to run for office and to participate in decision-making processes can help to promote gender equality in the public sphere.
7. Address the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap is a major contributor to gender inequality. Even women with the same degrees and majors as men in their fields earn less than men due to the pay gap. Addressing this issue through policies such as pay transparency and equal pay laws can help to promote gender equality in the workplace.
8. Provide mentorship and networking opportunities
Providing women with mentorship and networking opportunities can help to promote career development and advancement, and to increase the visibility of women in leadership positions. For example, in tech, two of the biggest barriers for women are a lack of mentors and a lack of female role models. By increasing the visibility of females in the industry, more gender diversity can be promoted.
9. Address violence against women
Violence against women is a major barrier to gender equality. To address it:
- Enact and enforce laws that criminalize all forms of violence against women
- Provide services and support to survivors
- Educate the public about the prevalence and consequences of violence against women to change societal attitudes and beliefs that condone or trivialize violence against women
- Hold pepetrators accountable for their actions through the criminal justice system
10. Promote gender-responsive policies
Developing and implementing policies that take into account the specific needs and concerns of women can help to promote gender equality. Ensure that a gender perspective is integrated into all stages of policy making, from the development of policy goals and objectives to the implementation and evaluation of policies.
Furthermore, building strategic partnerships with organizations, communities, and governments can help to promote gender equality by leveraging their resources and expertise.
11. Digital platforms for women's empowerment
Mobile apps, websites, and social media can be used to promote women's empowerment by providing access to information and resources, connecting women with mentors and role models, and fostering networks of support.
Closing the gender gap is crucial for achieving equal opportunities and rights for women, as well as promoting overall societal progress and well-being. World leaders have a crucial role to play in this regard, through implementing policies and programs that promote women's empowerment and gender equality.
However, individuals also play an important role in promoting gender equality. It is important for everyone to do their part in ensuring that women have the same opportunities and rights as men, and to actively work towards creating a more equitable and just society. By doing the right thing and spreading this message, we can work together to close the gender gap and create a more equal world for all.
Let Us Do The Heavy Lifting
At GGI, we believe in the power of diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and success. That's why we're on a mission to close the gender gap, and we need your help to make it happen.
If you're interested in creating a more equal and inclusive future, invest in GGI today and be a part of the change you want to see in the world. Let's talk!