Pay, education, childbirth: boosts for women
Will gender ever be irrelevant to success? Despite recent scandals the longer-term trend points towards gender equality. And this trend is global, not simply confined to the western world.
For some people, Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton symbolised the barriers that still hold women back across the world. Americans had the chance to make history and elect their first ever female president. Instead, they chose a man with no political experience who had boasted about sexually assaulting women.
But what came next brought those people hope. In January last year, millions of Americans took part in the women’s march in what became one of the largest demonstrations in US history.
And though progress is slow, the protesters’ calls for gender equality are gradually being heard.
The World Economic Forum annually publishes the Gender Gap Report: a global measure of gender inequality based on health, education, economics and politics. In the years since the report was first published in 2006, gender equality has increased.
Much of this is due to improvements in access to education. In many countries today, just as many women have the opportunity to go university and primary school as men.
While this is promising, other trends can be interpreted for better or worse. For example, the number of elected female politicians in the world doubled between 1995 and 2016. However, that still only worked out as 23% of politicians being women — hardly equality.
Once they make it into politics, it can be a dangerous place for women. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has survived several assassination attempts, while over half of female British MPs have received physical threats.
Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has promised “radical” steps to fight inequality. Her nation is already the first country to legally require companies to prove they pay all staff equally.
But globally speaking the the pay gap has a very long way to go. Based on current estimates, it will take 217 years before all women are paid at the same rate as men.
So can we really be optimistic about gender equality?
Power to all
The long-term trend is in women's favour, argue some. Only a few generations ago most women were expected to be nothing more than domestic help for their husbands. Now more women are working than ever before; education has never been more open to young girls; and women head some of the most powerful nations on Earth. If we keep working hard things will only get better.
We should be doing more, others respond. Change is coming too slowly and celebrating when the occasional woman succeeds does nothing to address underlying causes of inequality. Sexism is ingrained in our culture, with children shaped by harmful stereotypes before they even get to the world of work. Institutions will only change once society’s beliefs truly become more equal.
- Will men and women ever be totally equal?
- Is it true to say that women have never had it better?
- Equality can be improved by small acts, as well as big initiatives. In pairs or small groups discuss ways that you think you could make your daily lives fairer in terms of gender equality. Share your ideas with the class. Did any ideas come up repeatedly? Would they be practical to enforce?
- In terms of gender equality, every country is different. Using the resources in Become An Expert, as well as any others you can find find, research the UK and one other country of your choice. How do they compare? Is one country more equal than the other? Why do you think this is?
Some People Say...
“Gender equality is not only an issue for women and girls.”Justin Trudeau
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Various statistics highlight global inequalities which still exist between men and women. For example, as of 2015 only half of working-age women were in the labour force, compared to 77% of men. Furthermore, according the UNICEF there are still 32 million girls around the world being denied a primary education.
- What do we not know?
- We do not know how long it will take to bridge the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum, overall progress stalled in 2017. However, different countries will progress at different rates. For example, a Pew research study found that the gender pay gap in America decreased from 36% in 1980 to 17% in 2015.
- The World Economic Forum calculates the average gender gap as a percentage. This year the overall gap between men and women based on four categories was 32%. Whilst this is an improvement on 2006 figures, 2017 actually saw a slight growth in the gap — in 2016 it was calculated as 31.7%. For more information on this follow the World Economic Forum links under Become An Expert.
- Just as many
- According to the World Economic Forum, women constitute an equal or bigger share of those attending university in 93 countries. Also the UN’s Millennium Development Goals Report (2012) states: “The world has achieved parity in primary education between girls and boys.”
- According to the UN.
- Assassination attempts
- In 2004, for example, grenades were thrown into a crowd she was addressing at a rally. Hasina was injured and 24 others were killed.
- From research by the World Economic Forum.
- Harmful stereotypes
- One study found that six-year-old girls were more likely to associate natural brilliance with boys than girls. See the final link in “Become an Expert” for more details.