Gender inequality is not as severe as it used to be, but it remains a major human rights issue. Progress is also inconsistent; some countries are much more equal than others. Here are 10 facts that everyone should know about gender inequality today:
#1. Many girls still don’t have equal access to education
For centuries, girls have lacked equal educational opportunities. In the past, inequality was widespread and restricted most girls from attending primary schools, universities, and other educational institutions. The belief was that women should be wives and mothers, not scholars or professionals. Education access has significantly improved. According to the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, 88% of females worldwide had primary education. That’s still lower than boys, whose percentage is at 91%. Millions of girls are still unable to attend school.
#2. Gender inequality in education costs countries trillions of dollars
The effects of unequal education access ripple across the economy. When girls face barriers to finishing at least 12 years of schooling, it costs countries $15-30 trillion in lost lifetime earnings and productivity. According to a World Bank Report (“Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls”) women with secondary education are more likely to work. They also earn almost twice as much as women with no education. With the professional opportunities made possible with education, other social problems are addressed such as reduced child mortality, malnutrition, and child marriage.
#3. Women are paid less
According to the World Economic Forum, the gender pay gap persists globally and can be found in nearly every industry and profession. That’s true even when looking at the objective factors that should influence income. On average, women make 68% of what men make for the same work. In countries with the least gender parity, women make just 40%.
#4. Women work more low-paying jobs (and perform more unpaid work)
Women aren’t only making less than men for the same work, they’re also responsible for more low-paying work and work that doesn’t pay at all. Worldwide, women make up 70% of the health and social-care workforce, which includes important but low-paying jobs. Women also perform more unpaid labor such as taking care of kids and elderly family members, cleaning, cooking, and more. The International Labour Organization reports that women spend 3.2x more time on unpaid labor than men.
#5. Violence against women and girls is global and pervasive
Gender-based violence against girls and women is a global issue. The World Health Organization reports that 1 in 3 women (or over 700 million) suffer physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. It disproportionately affects women in low and lower-middle-income countries. Younger women are also at a higher risk. There is no place on earth where being female isn’t a risk factor for violence.
#6. Gender discrimination affects mental health
Gender discrimination leads to gender inequality. Several mental health effects follow. A study from 2020 found that women who reported experiencing gender discrimination in the past 12 months had a higher score on a depression screening tool. Women also experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders. Women are also 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide (though men are more likely to die by suicide). Research has searched for inherent characteristics that might explain this mental health gap, but inequality is more likely the primary cause.
#7. Gender inequality, racial discrimination, and LGBTQ+ stigma are linked
Inequality does not affect everyone the same. In 2020, white women in the United States earned 81 cents for every dollar a white man earns. However, other ethnicities (like Hispanic and Black women) earned just 75 cents. According to a WeForum piece, it seems like focusing on gender diversity generally benefits white women the most. Data also shows that being LGBTQ+ makes people more vulnerable to discrimination.
#8. Climate change and environmental degradation exacerbates gender inequality
Climate change endangers people of all genders, but women face specific inequalities. According to a CARE International report, women are significantly more likely than men to suffer climate change consequences. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that women face a higher risk of sexual violence in displacement camps and they shoulder more unpaid responsibilities at home when men leave to find income. Women also make up a high percentage of the communities that depend on local natural resources, which are threatened by climate change and environmental degradation.
#9. Gender inequality leads to worse health outcomes
According to a series of papers from The Lancet, gender inequality leads to worse health not just for girls and women, but for everyone, including anyone who doesn’t meet traditional expectations for gender. Gendered jobs are one reason. More women die of Ebola because they’re over-represented in paid and unpaid caregiving and nursing jobs. Meanwhile, men are more likely to die of lung disease because of their work in mining. In countries with more female physicians, maternal and infant mortality rates go down. Life expectancy for everyone goes up, as well. When women don’t face barriers to a medical career, it also simply means more doctors, leading to better medical care for all.
#10. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened gender inequality
Before the pandemic, the world was on track to reach gender parity in around 100 years. The pandemic added more than 35 years. Economic effects are a big reason why. Globally, women occupy more informal, low-paying jobs, which were hit hard by the pandemic. Women occupy more nursing jobs, which come with higher risks. Women also continued to bear most of the world’s unpaid labor, which increased as schools and childcare centers locked down. Gender-based violence also increased.