Recently my 7th grade geography class and I completed our Contemporary World Issue. This is where we researched into a complex topic of our choice, learnt about it, and found solutions to the problem. For this project, I wanted to learn more about gender inequality, and how it is affecting people.
In the beginning, when finding out what gender inequality is, I discovered that this isn’t just the injustice of women being paid less than men in the modern world, it is so much more. There are factors such as education and religion that are important as well. Since I wasn’t ready to decide about which part appealed to me the most, I did some background research about all the different aspects of gender inequality. Close to the middle of the research process, I had thought of three parts to focus on for my final presentation:
- How it all started,
- Gender wage gaps,
- What men are saying/doing about this, and how this issue affects them.
For all three parts I had to find solutions, and in the end I had to give my own opinion about gender inequality.
To start off, inequality among the genders was already found centuries back. The director of the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University, Sally Kitch, performed an investigation where she traced 300 years of history, trying to find out why the world sees men and women so differently. Kitch directed her attention to different categories to see how her investigation (that racial judgment affected gender inequality) would have changed throughout centuries. After thorough research, investigation, and interviews, she found that the main reason for the inequality, was having a child. She explained that: “for some reason, societies have decided that there’s something inherently inferior about having a female body and producing offspring.” A fact that proves this in the present, is that in the UK, a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission tells us that 30,000 females lose their jobs because they bear a child. Unfortunately, Sally Kitch discovered that the only communities from the past that actually achieved gender equality, were the ones who took romantic physical interaction and reproduction out of the equation, and those were only the minority.
Furthermore, I looked into the effects of the unfairness in a working environment. I found out some unknown facts to most people. For example, females who work in the European Union earn an average of 16.4% less than what men earn. This number varies per country though; in Poland the gap is only 2%, while in Estonia it is over 27%. Also, around the EU, the difference in average gross hourly earnings between females and males still remains at a high 15%. There are many more percentages that prove inequality, such as 8% of French women have part-time jobs involuntarily, while that’s only 2.8 percent of French men. Or here, in South America; the number of women contributing in the workforce has enlarged from 49.2% in 2000, to 52.9% in 2010. Although it is still below mens percentage, which is 79.6%. But now that we know these numbers, what can we do to reduce these gaps between men and women? There is a group known as “European Institute for Gender Equality” who works within the European Union's framework of initiatives. One of the things they’ve done in 2010 is launch the “Women Inspiring Europe” program, which aims to promote the achievements of women. This way, females can get more of the attention they deserve. Additionally, the Women’s Refugee Company is looking at the gender inequality situation, and is saying that the ‘key to success’ is giving the women a voice, and then enlisting powerful men in the cause.
The strongest way to involve the 'powerful males' in the cause is to convince them that they would benefit as much as women when there is equality among genders, experts said at the United Nations. They pointed out that if people start to accept gender equality and stop listening to stereotypes against the genders, this would help end the discrimination. Thus, it would give men more opportunities to do jobs that women do, it would let them work more in a household, which would increase bonds within the family, and if that happens then women can enter the workforce more.
To further build on the point of men, I developed more interest in the male aspect and pondered what their part was in this issue. Emma Watson, the world-famous British actor and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador pointed out in a speech: “the more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.” The part of her powerful speech that spoke to me the most, was when she stated that: “we don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” After her speech, she opened her campaign called HeForShe. This is for men to speak up and help end this on-going unfairness. The initiative is meant to act as a platform for men who are inspired to help. Their website informs that "men and boys need to be part of the global movement to promote women’s rights both as advocates and stakeholders, who need to change to make gender equality a reality for all. This is not about women or men, it is about crafting a shared vision of human progress for all – about creating a solidarity movement between women and men for the achievement of gender equality." After opening this campaign in late 2014, already over 280.000 men have joined to lend a hand.
In sum, gender inequality isn't something that can be solved in the blink of an eye, although with everybody helping, we can take small steps towards a fair society. Even though taking reproduction and romantic physical interaction out of people's lives would be impossible, and obviously people would disagree with this solution, other things can be done. Wage-gaps can be evened out when people stop thinking racially when hiring, but look at the qualities of a person. Also, as was mentioned, the EIGI is promoting woman's achievements to give them more (positive) attention. As for the men, if they start ignoring the ever-lasting stereotypes that rule our society, then women will get their fairness. Just like Emma Watson claimed that the solution of gender inequality lies in the change of behaviour of the men and in the environment they live. Obviously, these solutions are not things that can be invented, they come from within a person and from the society that they are part of. People need a reason to change the issue.
That's why I think that making people aware of existing gender inequality is a very important factor that will help improve this situation. If nobody knows about the problem, how can they solve it? Furthermore, I whole-heartedly agree with the solutions that the experts and organisations mentioned. I want to help contribute as much as possible. No-one in this world has the right to treat someone differently or unfairly because of their gender. That's why I believe we have to fight for both.
As you might have been able to tell, I've learnt many new things. Such valuable pieces of information, as well. This project really helped me to understand the importance of the equality among genders, and I'm really happy I chose this topic to do my CWI on. Overall, I enjoyed this process very much.
Cole, Nicki Lisa. “Full Transcript of Emma Watson’s Speech on Gender Equality at the UN.” Sociology About. About.com, 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://sociology.about.com/
od/Current-Events-in- Sociological-Context/fl/Full- Transcript-of-Emma-Watsons- Speech-on-Gender-Equality-at- the-UN.htm>.
European Institute for Gender Equality. “Initiatives.” European Institute for Gender Equality. European Union, 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://eige.europa.eu/
“Gender Inequality and Women in the Workplace.” Harvard Summer School. President and Fellows of Harvard, 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.summer.harvard.
“Gender Inequality: Pay.” Revolting Europe. Revolting Europe, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://revolting-europe.com/
“Home.” HeForShe. UN Women, 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.heforshe.org>.
Kitch, Sally. “What Are the Roots of Gender Inequality Women’s Rights, Race, and Reproduction.” Newswise. Newswise, 1 June 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.newswise.com/
articles/what-are-the-roots- of-gender-inequality-women-s- rights-race-and-reproduction>.
“100 Million Women in Latin America’s Labour Force.” International Labor Organisation. International Labor Organisation, 8 Mar. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ilo.org/global/
about-the-ilo/newsroom/ comment-analysis/WCMS_237488/ lang--en/index.htm>.
Reuters. “Gender Equality: What’s in It for Men?” New York Times. New York Times Company, 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/
reuters/2015/03/12/world/ europe/12reuters-un-men- genderequality.html>.
Tournai, Belgique. “Man and Woman Silhouettes.” Wikimedia. Wikimedia, 2 July 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/
Here are the slides from my presentation. For this, I used a free program called Canva.