Gender inequality is a worldwide problem. There are many different forms of it, from how men and women are valued in society to whether or not people have access to jobs or healthcare. The mindsets that lead to gender inequality can be hard to change, even when laws and structural changes are put in place. This is because societal beliefs about gender are often rooted in deeply held, irrational biases and prejudices. But despite this, progress toward gender equality is being made.
However, while there are some countries that have made significant strides toward equal rights for men and women, most still have a long way to go. This is illustrated most starkly in the wage gap, which measures the difference between men’s and women’s median earnings. In general, there has been rapid improvement in the wage gap over the past few decades, but since 1990 the pace of closing it has slowed and in some cases stopped entirely (source: World Development Indicators; OECD gender wage gap indicator, accessed on 02 March 2022; and author’s calculation).
There is also significant differences between men and women’s likelihood of getting a job. Women are overrepresented in low-paying jobs, compared to their share of the overall workforce, and this is especially true in rich countries. This is probably the result of a combination of factors, including a greater preference for female laborers in the market, men’s higher pay rates than women’s and gender bias/social norms.
Other key drivers of the gender wage gap include legal restrictions on women’s ability to work and to own property, as well as a lack of support for women in leadership roles. In addition, cultural attitudes about women’s responsibilities and roles play a role. Many families, for example, still expect boys to be firmer in their expression of masculinity and may set stronger expectations for them than girls.
Gender gaps are also perpetuated by the prevalence of violence against women. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one in three women globally have experienced physical or sexual partner violence at some point in their lives. This is a serious issue that affects the health of women and their children. It also erodes confidence in institutions that are supposed to protect women, such as the police and the justice system.
In order to fully eliminate gender inequality, these underlying issues must be addressed. This will require commitment and bold action by governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to promote laws, policies, budgets and institutions that advance gender equality. This includes promoting gender-specific data and tracking sex gap indicators. It will also require the investment of resources into collecting and analyzing this data. This will help identify key obstacles to progress and inform policy and funding decisions. This will ultimately lead to better outcomes for both women and men. Taking these steps will also have a domino effect in other areas prone to gender gaps, such as education and the economy.