Global Crisis of Gender Inequality

The world is facing a global crisis of gender inequality. Gender inequality undermines human rights, stunts economic growth and limits societies’ ability to address the many issues that we face today.

The root causes of the gender gap are complex. Often, they are rooted in cultural norms and values that deny women’s dignity, devalue their contributions, and limit their opportunities. Changing these cultural perceptions requires commitment, leadership and sustained investments.

But other factors, such as poverty and climate disasters, social unrest and conflict and the unequal division of work and care responsibilities, are also a challenge to overcome. These factors can exacerbate existing gender gaps by directly affecting women’s lives and livelihoods or keeping them out of school and work. They also contribute to a vicious cycle of exclusion where the impact of one gap fuels another, creating a self-perpetuating dynamic that hinders progress towards equality.

For example, in countries affected by conflict and armed violence, girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to be denied the right to education due to deeply ingrained gender norms such as child marriage or female genital mutilation. As a result, they lose out on the opportunity to become educated, and their future earnings potential is greatly diminished. This is a massive waste of talent that society cannot afford.

Even in more advanced economies, gender inequality is prevalent and a key barrier to progress. Women’s participation in the labor force is lower than men’s despite equal qualifications and performance, and they are less likely to own and manage businesses. This limits their access to capital and resources that can help them create jobs, grow their businesses and support their families. It is vital for the global economy that governments invest in initiatives that promote women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, and provide equal access to financial services to unlock this huge reservoir of untapped potential.

Gender inequality is closely linked to other forms of discrimination such as race and ethnicity, which continues to shape the economic opportunities available to people around the world. For instance, in colonial Virginia, European settlers decided what work was taxable and which was not based on the racial identity of the worker. As a result, black women earned significantly less than white women for the same work, which is a legacy that has shaped the wage gap to this day.

Gender inequality is an enormous hurdle to achieving global development goals such as those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achieving these objectives will require a transformation in mindsets and comprehensive policy reforms that include investments, leadership and commitment to achieve gender equality. If we don’t make the necessary investments and transform our policies, it will take 131 years to close the current gender gap, as estimated by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023. It is not acceptable that, in the year 2050, more women will live in extreme poverty than in today’s world.