Gender equality can be defined as the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making. It is also the state of valuing different attitudes, aspirations and needs equally.
With the above definition of gender equality, it is clear that our society still has a lot to do in terms of advancing gender equality. This article will attempt to shed a light on the state of gender equality in our society as a human race. I am going to take you on a literary journey of when and how gender equality has impacted the human society.
Firstly, gender inequality started with the obnoxious idea that men and women are not equal and that gender affects an individual’s living experience. These differences arise from differences in biology, psychology and cultural norms. Most of this distinctions are grounded either in religious norms or they are just socially constructed. However, studies show the different experiences of genders across many different fields of human life including education, family life, careers, and personal interest. In a nutshell, gender inequality is experienced across many divergent cultures.
From birth males and females are raised differently and experienced different environments throughout their lives. In the eyes of the society gender plays a huge role in many milestones and characteristics in life. The paths trodden by males and females in life is always determined by the gender expectation and stereotypes placed on them before they ever have a chance to choose their own path in life. A very good example of this lies in colour appreciation for males and females, its generally accepted that blue colour is associated with boys while pink colour is associated with girls, even more so when it comes to toys, boys tend to get toys like monster truck, while girls get dolls as toys. This is culturally constructed and has no inherent differences.
Education and Career.
Gender inequality had an effect on women in areas of education and career growth, in the 1970’s and 1980’s first year students in professional programs were made up of 40% women in law and medicine and over 30% in dentistry and business school. With advent of birth control pills came a time for women to make expensive and painful decisions about their education and career advancement which bothers on the uncertainties about education and career prospects. But birth control pills also gave men and women reasons to delay marriages and raising children, this means women can further pursue their career goals and educational advancement. In the last couple of decades society has improved it’s attitude towards the girl child education, with more countries allowing access to early girl child education, especially in the developing countries. (More can still be done and achieved in this regard).
There has also been notable improvement in the area of gender pay difference, because pay disparities between men and women are decreasing in all career fields. The difference in pay rapidly decreasing and women are now earning more now than they do in the last couple of decades.
Social Relationship and Marriages:
Gender equality in relationships has been growing over the years but for the majority of relationships, the power lies with the male, though this form of stereotype is fading out very fast as more and more women are having greater earning power and taking on more economic responsibilities than men in most relationships and marriages. A study by Szymanowicz and Furnham, looked at the cultural stereotypes of intelligence in men and women, showing the gender inequality in self presentation. The study revealed that women are more hesitant to show their level of intelligence to a potential partner so as to avoid diminishing their chance men. Women are more aware of negative reactions to their high level of IQ from men.
In relationships and marriages, women tend to sacrifice more than men, Londer Schiebinger wrote in her book titled “Has Feminism Changed Science?”, she claims that “Married men with families on average earn more money, live longer and happier, and progress faster in their careers”, while “for a working woman, a family is a liability, extra baggage threatening to drag down her career”. According to statistics only 17% of women who are full professors of engineering have children, while 82% of men who are full professors of engineering have children. (Just imagine the level of disparity).
A survey has revealed that men think and believe that they have a higher level of skills in activities relating to basic computer functions and online technology innovations than women, this is just not true. Men tend to hold this view based on perceived capabilities instead of actual ability. In analyzed data information from over 20 developing countries, it showed that the level of access and use of digital technology is based on the unfavorable ongoing discrimination with respect to education and income. But these circumstances are favorable it has been revealed that women actually become active users of these digital tools than men. I strongly believe that as much as an uneducated male will have problems using digital tools, an uneducated female will also have the same problem, so it is not a matter of gender in this case, but it is matter of being exposed to a certain level of education.
My extensive travels to different parts of the world afforded me the opportunity to study different cultures and their ways of living. I must say that cultural stereotypes based on gender exist in virtually all cultures whether for good or bad, respect must be accorded to different cultures. These cultural stereotypes dictates roles, and are very much engrained in the psyche of men and women of these different cultures resulting in gendered income disparity. An example is in a society that believes that women since women are naturally caring and nurturing, then they should be restricted to industries that require such skills is just plain wrong, no one should hold this kind of view. In some societies, men have traditionally been viewed as the breadwinner of the family so jobs held by men have been always valued higher economically and are able to earn more, this is the direct opposite of the value placed on jobs held by women which is unfair.
Effects of Gender Inequality:
The impact of gender inequality on society cannot be overlooked, in that this inequality tends to perpetuate poverty and expose the vulnerability of society itself as whole. The family as well as the environment are key influences in the lives of both male and female child to helping them take advantage of outside livelihood opportunities or respond to threat appropriately. Social integration and level of education can improve the productivity of members of a society. Poverty comes in different shapes and form, one of which is gender wage gap, of which efforts should be made to reduce this gap.
Education of the girl child should be made a priority globally, because education itself is a driving force to reduce poverty, illiteracy and improvement in family planning, because an educated girl will grow into a woman that would be able to space her children properly.
Domestic violence is as result of some men being raised in a society that believe men are superior to women, and hence they most likely want to subjugate women in their society to forms of discrimination. I believe more emphasis should placed on educating men, that men are not superior to men, because “I believe what a man can do, a woman do even better in some cases”. A lot of domestic violent incidents stem from the wrong idea of men who think they are above women, this notion has it’s root in some cultural stereotypes in some societies unfortunately.
Conflicts and Wars:
Historically, women have been known to bear the highest form of brutality in wars and conflict zones around the world. This is so because most times women have been subjected to horrifying experiences during wars. Women have always had shoulder very heavy burdens during war time. They loose their husbands during wars, they loose their children and sometimes they subjected to rape, torture and even death. This is why women in societies all over the world always advocate for peace instead of war.
There has been various steps taken to ameliorate institutionalized sexism. A lot of people and organizations are starting to speak up in a constructive manner to expose gender inequality in all areas of society. Inequality and under representation in all aspects of society. There is a push to accord women equal opportunities in all segments of society and not just to relegate women. Another area of concern is the law of inheritance in most countries, this issue is sensitive to some men in most societies because these inheritance laws tend to favor men over women, in that it gives less inheritance of the ancestral property to women compared men.
Another way is for civil society organizations to encourage governments in their various countries to come up with policies that will further close the gap between women and men in areas of education, career, family and income.
In the final analysis, it is worth to note that it is my hope that we all, wherever we are can and should continue to advance the cause of Gender Equality.