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How Can We Stop Gender Discrimination?

Gender discrimination is the unequal treatment of people based on their gender. That includes granting privileges to a certain gender or marginalizing someone because of their gender identity. Unequal pay, sexual harassment, and restricted or eliminated access to rights like education and healthcare are forms of gender discrimination. On an individual level, stopping gender discrimination requires internal reflection and willingness to change. As the data makes clear, however, gender discrimination is a systemic issue. The World Economic Forum estimates it will take 135.6 years to reach gender equality. Here are some of the key ways to end discrimination:

Ensure equal access to education

There’s been significant progress in education equality, but gaps remain. According to the Global Gender Gap Report in 2020, 88% of females had primary education compared to 91% of males. The 2021 report stated that with current progress, it will take just over 14 years to close the gap entirely. This is good news, but as the report also says, there are quality variations based on factors like income and ethnicity.

Helpful Resources: The Right to Education: Breaking Down the Barriers (Course)

Empower women in the workplace

In most workplaces, there are more men than women in high-level positions. The gender pay gap also persists in many places and intersects with race and ethnicity. Gender discrimination can be tackled by offering paid leave and childcare, supporting more women in senior roles, and reviewing salaries. It should also be remembered that the Covid-19 pandemic had a big effect on workplace gender equality. More women than men left their jobs, often because women tend to do more childcare. Oxfam International estimated that women lost more than 64 million (5% of the total jobs worked by women) while 3.9% of men’s jobs were lost.

Helpful Resources: Facing Racism and Emotional Tax in the Workplace (Course), Anti-Racism in the Workplace (Course), Workplace Equity (Course)

Protect reproductive rights

Sexual and reproductive rights are frequently threatened. In 2019, there were 218 million women in low-income countries who wanted to avoid pregnancy but weren’t using a modern contraception method. Every year, 127 million of these women give birth and many don’t receive care. Young people are especially affected by the lack of reproductive care, which makes it much harder to get an education and access professional opportunities. To protect rights, solutions like universal health coverage are important. Protecting reproductive rights also means gathering data on those historically ignored, like trans people.

Helpful Resources: International Women’s Health and Human Rights (Course)

Strengthen legal protections

Gender discrimination can be deadly in that it often leads to sexual harassment and assault. Domestic violence is especially pervasive. The WHO estimates that ⅓ of women between 15-49 years old have been the victim in a relationship with physical and/or sexual violence. In 2021, the World Bank examined whether domestic violence legislation is effective. They concluded that while it’s not the only method needed to protect women, it is important. These laws need to be actually enforced and strengthened when necessary, especially since the pandemic contributed to an increase in violence. Laws that address economic inclusion are also needed. According to Women, Business and the Law 2021, women have on average just ¾ of the legal rights given to men in 190 economies.

Helpful Resources: International Human Rights Law (Course), Confronting Gender Based Violence (Course), Understanding Violence Against Women: Myths and Realities (Course)

Provide better medical care

Overall, women receive poorer medical care than men. There are many reasons, such as the fact that more women live in poverty (and therefore can’t afford better healthcare), medical professionals can have gender bias, and there are gender gaps in medical research. Improving healthcare includes training medical staff on gender bias (including racial bias and bias against trans people); improving research methods and data collection; and empowering women, trans people, and non-binary people to take leadership roles in health organizations. Better health outcomes can also be attained by reducing poverty and empowering people economically.

Helpful Resources: International Women’s Health and Human Rights (Course)

Achieve better political representation

Political representation is an area with one of the biggest gender gaps. As of September 2021, there were just 26 women who were Heads of State or Heads of Government in 24 countries. Based on data from 133 countries, women only make up 36% of the elated members in local deliberative bodies. There are only two countries that’ve reached 50%. At this rate, it will take another 130 years to reach gender equality in the highest positions of power. Better political representation can be gained by eliminating the intersectional barriers that make it difficult for women to enter politics, like lack of access to funding, more responsibilities at home (like childcare), and cultural/social biases. More political training can also help empower women.

Helpful Resources: Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today (Course)

Prioritize the most marginalized

Not everyone affected by gender discrimination is affected in the same way. Factors like income level, race, ethnicity, and sexuality raise additional barriers to safety, work opportunities, reproductive rights, political representation, and more. Gender discrimination won’t be eliminated using a “trickle-down” method where resources are focused on more privileged groups. Those who are most marginalized, who are at the most risk, should be prioritized.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.