The Ongoing Struggle for Gender Equality

Diverse office workers with black woman leading meeting

Nearly 80 years since the United Nations established the Commission on the Status of Women, true equality remains stubbornly elusive.

While the number of women in influential positions has improved throughout the last few decades, high-level offices continue to be dominated by men. Inequality is so ingrained that it will take about a century to completely close the gender pay gap, and 130 years to reach gender equality within the global halls of power. 

A World Economic Forum report on the gender gap put the multi-generational struggle in stark terms: “None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children.”

Such inequality is the reason for widespread disparities across society, including in education, employment, and healthcare. There is virtually no country where gender equality has been eliminated—meaning governments across the globe must act to ensure half their populations can lead safe, healthy, and successful lives. 

  • Currently, more than 129 million girls worldwide are out of school and only half of the countries have reached gender parity in primary school, according to UNICEF
  • In terms of healthcare, girls and women suffer from a lack of access to medical care, with the situation worse in developing countries. 
  • According to the International Labour Organization, only 49 percent of women are in the workforce, opposed to three-quarters of men—and those employed make 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. 

To put gender equality in perspective: An estimated 2.5 billion women and girls are impacted by discriminatory laws, according to the UN. 

“[L]ower levels of gender equality in national laws are associated with fewer girls being enrolled in primary and secondary education, fewer women in skilled work, fewer women owning land or accessing financial and health services, and more women facing domestic and sexual violence,” according to the international body

The unfortunate reality is that discrimination impacts young girls almost as soon as they’re born, and mercilessly follows them for the rest of their lives, stifling promising futures. 

If anyone needs more evidence of the tragic consequences of gender inequality, consider this: Women represent two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults, and spend 300 percent more time than men performing unpaid work. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has yet again exposed such deep inequities. The most negative impacts have been disproportionately felt by marginalized communities and especially women, who lost 64 million jobs worldwide, resulting in about $800 billion in lost wages. Deep-seated inequality means women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs that lack substantive benefits and provide little job security, according to global nonprofit Oxfam International.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic—as other disruptive events, including climate change, violent conflicts, and political upheavals—has preyed on the most vulnerable people in society, which stems from multi-generational issues that often go unaddressed.  

It’s as if the pandemic is holding up a mirror to society—and governments can use the opportunity to correct long-ignored wrongs. 

Why Advancing Gender Equality Helps All of Society 

Resolving these issues is not only the moral responsibility of leaders across the world, but necessary to ensure women have the freedom to make their own choices.

According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, equal pay for all women would result in a $12 trillion increase to global GDP, with “full potential” increasing this to $28 trillion. Of the 95 countries it analyzed, 40 have “high or extremely high levels of gender inequality” on at least half its 15 gender-equality indicators. 

For example, in the United States, where equal rights are ingrained in its constitution, GDP would increase by $4.3 trillion if men and women were truly considered equals. 

While the number of women in influential positions has improved throughout the last few decades, high-level offices continue to be dominated by men.

Despite the many necessary advances that need to be made, there’s reason to be optimistic. According to the World Bank, women now hold a quarter of legislative seats around the world, and their influence is growing within management positions. Critically, maternal mortality rates have decreased compared to the turn of the century, and health professionals are increasingly involved in childbirths, the World Bank reports. 

Using Data to Address Inequality 

For policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and gender equality advocates, one of the keys to addressing these systemic issues is through the gathering and analysis of data. 

While it’s common for organizations to commission studies to generate a comprehensive understanding of important issues, the reality is that these solutions often take too long and perhaps don’t reflect the complex conversations people are engaged in. 

Consider the coronavirus pandemic: As the virus took hold, policymakers realized the importance of providing funding directly to citizens or businesses amid unprecedented lockdowns. Despite everyone on the planet being impacted one way or another, it became clear marginalized communities were disproportionately affected. Relevant insights gleaned from online networks would give policymakers a better understanding of the pandemic’s impacts at various levels, and within specific communities. 

With women and girls already suffering from inadequate healthcare, education, and employment on a global scale, it’s critical those in leadership positions have contextualized data at their disposal to make informed decisions. 

Citibeats is an AI social understanding platform that interprets citizen feedback in real time to generate actionable insights. We analyze gender inclusion narratives to give decision-makers an overview of issues affecting society. In addition, our comprehensive suite of customer solutions addresses today’s most pressing issues, including migration, sustainability, vaccines, and more. Schedule a demo to discuss how Citibeats can help you make better decisions, faster.