What is Gender Inequality?

Gender inequality is the persistent and systematic disadvantages that people experience on the basis of their sex or gender. The term covers a wide range of disparities, from those that are glaringly obvious – such as the pay gap – to those that are more subtle – such as the tendency to avoid certain subjects, careers or roles due to social norms or stereotypes. It affects women and men, girls and boys, across the globe, in all areas of life – at home, school, work and in the community.

While significant progress has been made in closing many gender gaps, including in the area of education, the need for continued effort is clear. In particular, gender gaps remain in tertiary education, labor market participation, wages and leadership positions. In addition, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities in many countries, particularly as women shouldered more of the burden of caring for young children.

Gender inequalities are a human rights issue that impacts everyone, at every stage of life, regardless of economic status or country of origin. They limit a person’s potential, often from birth. Gender discrimination harms health and economic prosperity, causes poverty and deprivation, leads to cycles of violence, and stifles development. Indirectly, gender discrimination also harms men by forcing them to live up to rigid masculine stereotypes, which can lead to them being less likely to seek help when they are ill or to take care of their mental and physical well-being.

The causes of gender inequality vary widely by country and are rooted in both social and cultural attitudes. However, the main causes are gender bias and social norms that restrict women’s opportunities and influence their decisions and actions. These factors include both hostile sexism and benevolent sexism, as well as differences in the way that males and females are perceived in their professional and personal lives.

This chart illustrates the global gender gap in a variety of indicators, including life expectancy, health outcomes, education and wealth. The earliest date of gender parity is forecast for 2062.

We believe that addressing the root causes of gender inequality is the key to building a better world. By investing in women and girls, we can achieve more sustainable development and create a safer, more prosperous future for all of us.

Girls who receive an education, stay in school longer and marry later can add up to $28 trillion to the global economy. They can earn more and become better-equipped to protect themselves against sexual violence, support their families financially and have healthier children. When we fight gender oppression, everyone benefits. This is why we have a global commitment to advancing gender equality. You can learn more about the role of Save the Children in the fight for gender justice here. And you can join our movement to make a difference today. Please donate to support our work. Thank you!