As soon as I heard the siren call of Teen Magazine’s support for #HeforShe, the ‘global solidarity movement for gender equality’, it made me reflect on my own womanhood in this generation. In high school, I’ve learned about the development of Feminism, from the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention to women’s suffrage movements worldwide. Thanks to their blood, sweat and tears, as well as that of today’s women’s rights advocates, we have opportunities that were once so taboo for women, such as having a career before marriage or pursuing STEM.
I went to high school with a female kicker on the American football team, a female student representative on the State Board of Education and a whole array of strong female students, whom I’m honored to call my friends and classmates. Personally, I have yet to face gender-based discrimination, but as a high school graduate soon to be heading out into the job market, I know that I may find myself in situations where my gender, along with my cultural identity, will be a distinction for potential employers. However, apart from my professional qualifications and the college degree I have invested in, my identity should never have to be a consideration.
And yet, despite the popular consensus that privileges should be granted based solely on merit, it is our skin color, our sexual orientation, and, more often than not, our gender that becomes the deal clincher in order to hear the words “you’re hired” or “you’re promoted” or “you’ve been upgraded” or “you’ve been recognized.” Gender inequality is still a prevalent issue economically, politically, and socially. So, before you and I can sit back and sing along to Beyoncé’s “Who Run the World (Girls),” we need to realize that we cannot be complacent with our own lives when around the world, many women live through a much darker reality.
Here are some of the statistical realities regarding gender inequality:
1) 100+ Years Needed to Close the Global Gender Gap
First introduced in 2006 at the World Economic Forum, the Global Gender Gap Index tracks gender inequality in regards to Economic Participation, Educational Opportunity, Healthcare and Political Empowerment in over 149 countries. According to the 2018 report, there is a gender gap of 77.1% in regards to Political Empowerment for women, since only 17 out of 149 assisted countries have female heads of state, with a minority as ministers, legislators, and representatives. The report states that it would take 124 years for Central Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as 165 years for North America to close the current global gender gap.
2) Only 8 Countries Provide Equal Legal Rights to Working Women
The 2020 report 'Women, Business and Law' is an analysis of the laws and regulations of 190 countries that impact women's economic opportunities. This is in regards to the Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets, and Pension provided to women in their respective countries. An empowered woman who is allowed economic mobility and security in any country guarantee economic growth.
Working women have proven themselves to be assets, and yet only 8 economies (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden ) have scored 100 on the Women, Business and Law index, excluding the United States which ranks at #38. The report clearly states that it does not take into account social attitudes towards women in these countries, but when women are treated as second class citizens with a fraction of the legal rights given by human right to men, it is a clear indicator of a country's position on gender equality.
3) Full time, Working Women Make Only 82 cents to Every Dollar Earned by Men
According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, despite women making up half the workforce and earning more graduate degrees than their male counterparts, they make only 82 cents to every dollar earned by men at a full-time level. An IWPR analysis of women’s and men’s earnings over 15 years found that women made just half or 49% of what men earned, regardless of the occupation. The Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2017 revealed that men on average earning $241.50 more per week than women. and that the hourly wage gap was $2.43, as reported by The Guardian. To imagine this from a global perspective, in less developed countries, the situation is much worse.
Not recognizing that women have to balance their work lives with their personal lives has also resulted in unpaid domestic jobs and part-time work. This is not enough to cover family needs, especially if the woman is the sole or co-breadwinner in the family and has child care costs to deal with. It's also a degradation of a woman's worth in her professional field, whether it be celebrities like Natalie Portman earning one-third of what co-star Ashton Kutcher earned, or female office workers struggling to put food on the table for their families.
And these statistics are only regarding women in the workforce. It doesn't make other life situations when you, as a woman, are denied an opportunity which you rightfully deserved and instead is given to a man, less significant. In fact, it is our complacency with the "minor" injustices that build up to the bigger, more "in your face" injustices. Always fight for what you deserve and if you experience unlawful discrimination, be it personally or second-hand, call it out. In the words of Stephanie Bennett Henry, "Life is tough, my darling, but so are you."