The Fairer Sex?

By DER SPIEGEL, GIANNA SCHWANECKE (Opinion)

As women we face a number of challenges unknown to our male counterparts. For women in developing countries, gender issues are especially prevalent. While violence against women may be a universal issue, gender inequality addresses the pattern of male dominance which enables such abhorrent practices.

Gender inequality today speaks to historical norms which have placed men above women, placing their needs and rights above our own. Feminist movements of the last century have sought to level the playing field and earn women the same rights afforded to men; from women gaining the right to vote to reclaiming control over their bodies with access to contraceptives.

Today, many women are free to participate in the electoral process and birth care is widely available. But today’s Western women still face one great challenge: equality in the workplace.

Women make up more than half the world’s population, yet on average earn only 60 to 70 percent of what men earn. This is an especially prevalent issue for women of color who earn even less on average. Gender inequality doesn’t just pose a challenge for women but also impacts society as a whole.

Current data suggests that as developing countries work toward increasing gender equality, their economy could grow as well. A recent study found that the global economy could grow by some $28 trillion (US) if women were free to participate in the labor force as men do.

Northern Europe, especially Scandinavian states, are regarded today as having established models of workplace gender equality. However, developing countries and even economic powerhouses like the United States and Australia, have much to do still in terms of granting equal pay for equal work, and expanding parental leave programs.

Gender equality starts in small quiet places, in homes and office spaces. Eliminating gender discrimination in the workplace will not only empower women socially and economically, but will contribute to a much-needed culture shift that may resolve other issues like gendered violence.

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