Gender inequality is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that manifests itself in many ways. Some of the most obvious examples are differences in pay, promotions and other professional opportunities. Others, less obvious, involve discrimination and bias.
The world has made progress toward gender equality, but it has slowed down in recent decades. This has stalled progress in a number of areas, including time spent on unpaid care and domestic work, decision-making about sexual and reproductive health, and gender-responsive budgeting.
Achieving gender equality requires transforming and amplifying the distribution of opportunities, resources, and choices for men and women so that they have equal power to shape their own lives and contribute to their families, communities, and countries. This is not just a moral imperative but also a critical foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Wages for women are lower than for men in almost all countries. This gap is largely driven by differences in education, job characteristics and social norms that affect the way women are distributed among low-income jobs.
Moreover, while many high-income countries have seen a reduction in the gap over the last few decades, women still make up a much smaller share of the top income groups than they do in lower-income regions. In addition, in some countries, the gap is growing again.
Girls are often pushed aside in school, denied access to health services and unable to earn a living wage. They are more likely to be pregnant and have children at an earlier age, more likely to be malnourished and more likely to die of infectious diseases like HIV and AIDS, than their male counterparts.
Inequalities in life opportunities and economic outcomes for women are rooted in harmful stereotypes and discriminatory laws. These can undermine girls’ ability to reach their full potential in school and beyond, creating a long-term impact on their well-being and their prospects for a life of freedom and prosperity.
Gender inequality in the workforce, particularly in leadership roles, is a significant cause of the global gender pay gap and has a restraining impact on women’s participation in the economy. This is because men are more likely than women to have advanced educational qualifications, and therefore to be able to secure better jobs.
While there is some evidence that more education reduces the wage gap, in practice, it does not always lead to an increase in salary. The gap remains large despite a decline in the number of low-skilled, manual jobs and an increase in non-manual jobs, especially in developing countries.
This is because the nature of these roles does not necessarily align with a woman’s skills or interests, or to her ability to negotiate her compensation. Increasing opportunities for women in leadership positions, and making sure they have the support of their management teams and peers, can help close this gap.
While accelerating gender equality has been linked to higher female participation in the labor market and a smaller gender pay gap, these gains are only achievable when HR policies and practices are geared toward equal treatment of men and women. To achieve this, workplaces must recognize the many layers of inequality that exist within organizations. This includes not only gender segregation in departments and job ladders, but also discriminatory HR policies and practices that lead to gender-based pay gaps.