How to End Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is discrimination that causes one sex to be routinely privileged or prioritized over another. It happens because of stereotypes and attitudes that affect people’s abilities to perform jobs and take on roles, or because of laws that limit their rights.

It’s a massive global problem that has many root causes. And while progress has been made, a lot of work remains to be done. Gender inequality costs the economy $9 trillion a year in developing countries alone. That’s enough to lift millions of families out of poverty. It’s also a human rights violation. Gender equality is a fundamental right for everyone.

A lot of the work that needs to be done is about breaking down the barriers to women’s full participation in life, including unpaid domestic work, sexual violence and discrimination. It’s also about empowering women to be active participants in decision-making. This is particularly important in the context of population and development programmes, which are more effective when they take gender considerations into account.

One of the most visible ways that gender inequality manifests itself is in the labor market, where it’s estimated that women do about four years more work a year than men when paid and unpaid work are taken into account. That’s about a third more time in the workplace, and it contributes to lower wages for both women and girls.

The same kinds of issues play out in other parts of the world: children born to poor mothers are more likely to be at risk for disease, malnutrition and early death. Girls are more likely to be denied access to education, especially in the form of primary schooling. They are also more likely to drop out and have lower literacy rates. And while global progress has been made, it will take 300 years to end child marriage, 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws against women, and 47 years to reach equal representation of women in national parliaments around the world.

Other issues that need to be tackled are the lack of investment in women and girls’ capacity and potential, a persistent pay gap, and a disproportionate impact on women from social shocks such as conflict, natural disasters or climate change. And it’s vital to address discrimination against women and LGBTQIA+ people, who have fewer opportunities, are less represented in leadership positions and are more likely to be victims of violent and hateful actions.

Taking gender into account also helps us make better decisions. A study found that when women are part of the decision-making process for issues like age at marriage, timing of births and use of family planning tools, they’re more likely to choose a healthy approach that benefits their own health as well as that of their families and communities. This is a great example of how gender equality can benefit society.