Gender Gaps and Gender Inequality
Although significant progress has been made in reducing gender inequality, gaps remain – in education, labor markets, wages and leadership positions. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) reveals the extent to which national human development achievements are eroded by persistent inequalities between women and men.
While policy interventions can make a difference in the short term, it is critical to focus on the long-term goal of eliminating gender inequality by targeting its root causes. This requires changing social norms and behaviors based on gender biases, which can take time to change. In the meantime, policies can address a wide range of symptoms and impacts of gender inequality.
For example, in a country where women are underrepresented in the government, a policy to increase female tertiary enrollment rates would be beneficial to women and the economy. But, if women’s disproportionate representation in low-pay jobs is a result of discrimination against them and not their choice to work in lower-income professions, the policy may only cause distortions and reduce overall welfare. In such cases, it is important to distinguish between gender gaps and gender inequality.
Similarly, in a country where women are underrepresented as inventors and innovators, policy interventions to increase women’s participation in invention and innovation would benefit the economy. But, if women’s underrepresentation in these fields is due to discrimination and not their choice to pursue them, the policies may only serve to skew scientific outcomes. In such cases, it is important to discern between the gender gap and gender inequality.
Gender inequality also manifests itself in the household, with a disproportionate share of women living in poorer households and more of them in informal employment. These households often lack access to financial services and are less likely to own assets compared with richer households. This, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to economic shocks and more dependent on government assistance.
In addition, women face greater barriers to accessing high-quality healthcare. This is partly due to a lack of access to contraception, which can help reduce maternal deaths and infections; however, it also stems from women’s lower educational levels and employment opportunities. Furthermore, medical professionals are often biased against women, which leads to sub-optimal care and increased health costs.
As a result, it is essential to invest in the development of women as leaders and entrepreneurs by providing them with education and training. In addition, employers should offer flexible schedules that allow for a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, businesses should invest in employee resource groups (ERGs) and provide mentorship programs. These initiatives will help create a more inclusive workplace that allows women to thrive and achieve their full potential. Finally, governments should implement public-private partnerships to boost investment in research and technology that is geared towards women’s needs. This will enable women to develop new solutions and products, thus enhancing the global economy. In doing so, we can ensure that the world is a more equitable place for everyone.