The Causes of Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is a worldwide phenomenon that afflicts women and girls everywhere. The problem is rooted in how society perceives men and women, and it’s manifested in a number of ways. The most obvious way is through pay gaps and discrimination, but it also affects the educational system, health care, business ownership, and access to land and credit.

Gender equality is a fundamental human right that’s necessary for peace, prosperity and sustainability. While there have been many advances, the world is not yet on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 5 target of achieving gender equality by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for bold action, such as the promotion of laws, policies, budgets and institutions that advance gender equality.

The global economic cost of gender inequality is massive. For example, the Gender Inequality Index (GII) estimates that, if women and girls were equal earners, global GDP would increase by $160.2 trillion. The GII also includes a loss in potential human development due to the fact that women are more likely than men to spend time on unpaid care and domestic work, be denied reproductive rights and harmed by violence.

In addition, a lack of education and jobs can lead to fewer opportunities for healthy dietary choices and lower levels of exercise, which leads to poorer overall health. This results in a disproportionate number of women dying from preventable diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer. Women are also less likely to have adequate access to quality healthcare, and more often than men suffer from non-communicable chronic conditions like autoimmune disorders.

One of the most serious causes of gender inequality is a culture that defines men and women differently, whether it’s hostile or benevolent sexism. These beliefs influence how individuals and groups treat each other, with the most damaging impact on the most vulnerable.

Another major factor is the lack of resources and support to empower women and girls. For instance, girls are more likely to drop out of school than boys because they can’t afford the fees and other living costs. Moreover, they’re more likely to be victims of sexual violence and not report it because of stigma and shame. This can also lead to poor health outcomes, such as malnutrition, infant mortality and poor mental health.

Finally, when religious freedom is restricted by extremist ideologies, such as ISIS or Islamist extremism, women suffer the most. According to a study by Georgetown University and Brigham Young University, these restrictions make it harder for women to participate in the economy. This leads to poverty, illiteracy, and poorer health and economic outcomes for all.

Gender inequality is complicated and multifaceted, but addressing it will require all sectors of society to work together to change attitudes and behaviours. This will be difficult, especially when it comes to changing mindsets — even after progress has been made, such as better representation of women in leadership roles. However, tackling the root causes of gender inequality is worth the effort to build a world where everyone is treated fairly and with dignity.