Gender inequality
Gender inequality refers to disparity between individuals due to gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. Gender systems
Gender systems
Gender systems are systems of gender roles in societies. A gender role is "everything that a person says and does to indicate to others or to the self the degree that one is either male, female, or androgynous...

 are often dichotomous and hierarchical; binary gender systems may reflect onto the inequalities that manifest in numerous dimensions of daily life. Gender inequality stems from distinctions, whether empirically grounded or socially constructed.

Income disparities linked to job stratification

Wage discrimination is the discrepancy of wages between two groups due to a bias towards or against a specific trait with all other characteristics of both groups being equivalent. In the case of gender inequality, wage discrimination exists between the male and female gender. Historically, gender inequality has favored men over similarly qualified women.

Income disparity
Income disparity
The gender pay gap is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the OECD. The European Commission defines it as the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings...

 between genders stems from processes that determine the quality of jobs and earnings associated with jobs. Earnings associated with jobs will cause income inequality to take form in the placement of individuals into particular jobs through individual qualifications or stereotypical norms. Placement of men or women into particular job categories can be supported through the human capital
Human capital
Human capitalis the stock of competencies, knowledge and personality attributes embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. It is the attributes gained by a worker through education and experience...

 theories of qualifications of individuals or abilities associated with biological differences in men and women. Conversely, the placement of men or women into separate job categories is argued to be caused by social status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 groups who desire to keep their position through the placement of those in lower statuses to lower paying positions.

Human capital
Human capital
Human capitalis the stock of competencies, knowledge and personality attributes embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. It is the attributes gained by a worker through education and experience...

 theories refer to the education, knowledge, training, experience, or skill of a person which makes them potentially valuable to an employer. This has historically been understood as a cause of the gendered wage gap but is no longer a predominant cause as women and men in certain occupations tend to have similar education levels or other credentials. Even when such characteristics of jobs and workers are controlled for, the presence of women within a certain occupation leads to lower wages. This earnings discrimination is considered to be a part of pollution theory. This theory suggests that jobs which are predominated by women offer lower wages than do jobs simply because of the presence of women within the occupation. As women enter an occupation, this reduces the amount of prestige associated with the job and men subsequently leave these occupations. The entering of women into specific occupations suggests that less competent workers have begun to be hired or that the occupation is becoming deskilled
Deskilling is the process by which skilled labor within an industry or economy is eliminated by the introduction of technologies operated by semiskilled or unskilled workers...

. Men are reluctant to enter female-dominated occupations because of this and similarly resist the entrance of women into male-dominated occupations.

The gendered income disparity can also be attributed in part to occupational segregation
Occupational segregation
Occupational segregation is the distribution of groups defined by ascribed characteristics, mostly gender, across occupations. More basically, it is the concentration of a similar group of people in a job. Occupational segregation levels differ on a basis of perfect segregation and integration...

, where groups of people are distributed across occupations according to ascribed characteristics; in this case, gender. Occupational sex segregation can be understood to contain two components or dimensions; horizontal segregation and vertical segregation. With horizontal segregation, occupational sex segregation occurs as men and women are thought to possess different physical, emotional, and mental capabilities. These different capabilities make the genders vary in the types of jobs they are suited for. This can be specifically viewed with the gendered division between manual and non-manual labor. With vertical segregation, occupational sex segregation occurs as occupations are stratified according to the power, authority, income, and prestige associated with the occupation and women are excluded from holding such jobs.

As women entered the workforce in larger numbers since the 1960s, occupations have become segregated based on the amount femininity or masculinity presupposed to be associated with each occupation. Census data suggests that while some occupations have become more gender integrated (mail carriers, bartenders, bus drivers, and real estate agents), occupations including teachers, nurses, secretaries, and librarians have become female-dominated while occupations including architects, electrical engineers, and airplane pilots remain predominately male in composition. Based on the census data, women occupy the service sector jobs at higher rates than men. Women’s overrepresentation in service sector jobs as opposed to jobs that require managerial work acts as a reinforcement of women and men into traditional gender role
Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...

s that causes gender inequality.

Once factors such as experience, education, occupation, and other job-relevant characteristics have been taken into account, 41% of the male-female wage gap remains unexplained. As such, considerations of occupational segregation and human capital theories are together not enough to understand the continued existence of a gendered income disparity.

The glass ceiling
Glass ceiling
In economics, the term glass ceiling refers to "the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements." Initially, the metaphor applied to barriers in the careers of women but...

 effect is also considered a possible contributor to the gender wage gap or income disparity. This effect suggests that gender provides significant disadvantages towards the top of job hierarchies which become worse as a person’s career goes on. The term glass ceiling implies that invisible or artificial barriers exist which prevent women from advancing within their jobs or receiving promotions. These barriers exist in spite of the achievements or qualifications of the women and still exist when other characteristics that are job-relevant such as experience, education, and abilities are controlled for. The inequality effects of the glass ceiling are more prevalent within higher-powered or higher income occupations, with fewer women holding these types of occupations. The glass ceiling effect also indicates the limited chances of women for income raises and promotion or advancement to more prestigious positions or jobs. As women are prevented by these artificial barriers from receiving job promotions or income raises, the effects of the inequality of the glass ceiling increase over the course of a woman’s career.

Statistical discrimination
Statistical discrimination (economics)
Statistical discrimination is an economic theory of racial or gender inequality based on stereotypes. According to this theory, inequality may exist and persist between demographic groups even when economic agents are rational and non-prejudiced...

 is also cited as a cause for income disparities and gendered inequality in the workplace. Statistical discrimination indicates the likelihood of employers to deny women access to certain occupational tracks because women are more likely than men to leave their job or the labor force when they become married or pregnant. Women are instead given positions that dead-end or jobs that have very little mobility.

In Third World countries such as the Dominican Republic, female entrepreneurs are statistically more prone to failure in business. In the event of a business failure women often return to their domestic lifestyle despite the absence of income. On the other hand, men tend to search for other employment as the household is not a priority.

The gender earnings ratio suggests that there has been an increase in women’s earnings comparative to men. Men’s plateau in earnings began after the 1970s, allowing for the increase in women’s wages to close the ratio between incomes. Despite the smaller ratio between men and women’s wages, disparity still exists. Census data suggests that women’s earnings are 71 percent of men’s earnings in 1999.

The gendered wage gap varies in its width among different races. Whites comparatively have the greatest wage gap between the genders. With whites, women earn 78% of the wages that white men do. With African Americans, women earn 90% of the wages that African American men do. With people of Hispanic origin, women earn 88% of the wages that men of Hispanic origin do.

There are some exceptions where women earn more than men: According to a survey on gender pay inequality by the International Trade Union Confederation
International Trade Union Confederation
The International Trade Union Confederation is the world's largest trade union federation. It was formed on November 1, 2006 out of the merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labour...

, female workers in the Gulf state of Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

 earn 40 per cent more than male workers.

Professional education and careers

The gender gap also appeared to narrow considerably beginning in the mid-1960s. Where some 5% of first-year students in professional programs were female in 1965, by 1985 this number had jumped to 40% in law and medicine, and over 30% in dentistry and business school. Before the highly effective birth control pill was available, women planning professional careers, which required a long-term, expensive commitment, had to "pay the penalty of abstinence or cope with considerable uncertainty regarding pregnancy." This control over their reproductive decisions allowed women to more easily make long-term decisions about their education and professional opportunities.
Women are highly underrepresented on boards of directors and in senior positions in the private sector.

Additionally, with reliable birth control, young men and women had more reason to delay marriage. This meant that the marriage market available to any one women who "delay[ed] marriage to pursue a career...would not be as depleted. Thus the Pill could have influenced women's careers, college majors, professional degrees, and the age at marriage."

Customer preference studies

A 2009 study conducted by David R. Hekman
David R. Hekman
David R. Hekman is an assistant professor of management at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.- Early life and education :A Michigan native, Hekman received his Bachelor of Business Administration in 2000 at Grand Valley State University, where he was voted "Outstanding Finance Student of the...

 and colleagues found that customers who viewed videos featuring a black male, a white female, or a white male actor playing the role of an employee helping a customer were 19 percent more satisfied with the white male employee's performance, suggesting customer bias as a reason why white men continue to earn 25 percent more than equally-well performing women and minorities. Forty five percent of the customers were women and 41 percent were non-white, indicating to the researchers that even women and minority customers prefer white men. In a second study, they found that white male doctors were rated as more approachable and competent than equally-well performing women or minority doctors. They interpret their findings to suggest that employers are willing to pay more for white male employees because employers are customer driven and customers are happier with white male employees. They also suggest that what is required to solve the problem of wage inequality is to change customer biases, not necessarily to pay women more.

Gender roles in parenting and marriage

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 suggested that biology determines gender identity through identification with either the mother or father. While some people agree with Freud, others argue that the development of the gendered self is not completely determined by biology based around one's relationship to the penis, but rather the interactions that one has with the primary caregiver(s).

According to the non-Freudian view, gender role
Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...

s develop through internalization and identification during childhood. From birth, parents interact differently with children depending on their sex, and through this interaction parents can instill different values or traits in their children on the basis of what is normative for their sex. This internalization of gender norms can be seen through the example of which types of toys children are typically given (“feminine” toys often reinforce interaction, nurturing, and closeness, “masculine” toys often reinforce independence and competitiveness) that parents give to their children. Education also plays an integral role in the creation of gender norms.

Gender roles permeate throughout life and help to structure parenting and marriage, especially in relation to work in and outside the home.

Progress in making gender roles more equal

Despite the increase in women in the labor force since the mid-1900s, women are still responsible for the majority of the domestic chores and childcare. While women are splitting their time between work and care of the home, men are pressured into being the primary economic supporter of the home. Despite the fact that different households may divide chores more evenly, there is evidence that supports that women have retained the primary caregiver role within familial life despite contributions economically. This evidence suggest that women who work outside the home often put an extra 18 hours a week doing household or childcare related chores as opposed to men who average 12 minutes a day in childcare activities. In addition to a lack of interest in the home on the part of some men, some women may bar men from equal participation in the home which may contribute to this disparity.

Structural marginalization

Gender inequalities often stem from social structures that have institutionalized conceptions of gender differences.

Cultural stereotypes

Cultural stereotypes are engrained in both men and women and these stereotypes are a possible explanation for gender inequality and the resulting gendered wage disparity. Women have traditionally been viewed as being caring and nurturing and are designated to occupations which require such skills. While these skills are culturally valued, they were typically associated with domesticity, so occupations requiring these same skills are not economically valued. Men have traditionally been viewed as the breadwinner or the worker, so jobs held by men have been historically economically valued and occupations predominated by men continue to be economically valued and pay higher wages.

Sexism and discrimination

Gender inequality can further be understood through the mechanisms of sexism
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...

. Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

 takes place in this manner as men and women are subject to prejudicial treatment on the basis of gender alone. Sexism occurs when men and women are framed within two dimensions of social cognition.

Discrimination also plays out with networking and in preferential treatment within the economic market. Men typically occupy positions of power within the job economy. Due to taste or preference for other men because they share similar characteristics, men in these positions of power are more likely to hire or promote other men, thus discriminating against women.

Discrimination against men in the workplace is rarer but does occur, particularly in health care professions. Only an estimated 0.4% of midwives in the UK are male and according to cbs only 1% of all trainee nurses and only 2% of Secretaries are male.

Discrimination against women in the workplace also occurs. Only an estimated 1% of roofers in the US are female.

Gender Inequality Across the Globe

Gender inequality is a result of the persistent discrimination of one group of people based upon gender and it manifests itself differently according to race, culture, politics, country, and economic situation. It is furthermore considered a causal factor of violence against women. While gender discrimination happens to both men and women in individual situations, discrimination against women is an entrenched, global pandemic. This is evidenced in the “missing girls” phenomenon in Asia, where it is estimated that due to the undervaluing of women and girls over 100 million girls are missing as a result of the infanticide of girl children, sex selection for boys, allocation of economic and nutritional resources away from girl children, and generalized violence against women and girls. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape and violence against women and girls is used as a tool of war. And in Afghanistan, girls have had acid thrown in their faces for attending school. Considerable focus has been given to the issue of gender inequality at the international level by organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank, particularly in developing countries. The causes and effects of gender inequality vary by country, as do solutions for combating it.

Gender Inequality in the United States

The World Economic Forum, which measures gender equity through a series of economic, educational, and political benchmarks, ranks the United States as 19th (up from 31st in 2009) in terms of achieving gender equity. In the U.S., women are more likely than men to live in poverty, earn less money for the same work, are more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence and rape, and have less of a political voice. A recent statistic from the Department of Labor indicates that in 2009, “the median weekly earnings of women who were full-time wage and salary workers was…80 percent of men’s”. The Department of Justice found that in 2009, “the percentage of female victims (26%) of intimate partner violence was about 5 times that of male victims (5%)”. “The United States ranks 41st in a ranking of 184 countries on maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, below all other industrialized nations and a number of developing countries” and women only represent 20% of members of Congress. Gender inequality is thus a widespread and ingrained social and public health issue.

Impact and counteractions

Gender inequality and discrimination is argued to cause and perpetuate poverty and vulnerability in society as a whole. Household and intra-household knowledge and resources are key influences in individuals' abilities to take advantage of external livelihood opportunities or respond appropriately to threats. High education levels and social integration significantly improve the productivity of all members of the household and improve equity throughout society. Gender Equity Indices seek to provide the tools to demonstrate this feature of poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...


Despite acknowledgement by institutions such as the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 that gender inequality is bad for economic growth, there are many difficulties in creating a comprehensive response. It is argued that the Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

 (MDGs) fail to acknowledge gender inequality as a cross-cutting issue. Gender is mentioned in MDG3 and MDG5: MDG3 measures gender parity in education, the share of women in wage employment and the proportion women in national legislatures. MDG5 focuses on maternal mortality and on universal access to reproductive health. However, even these targets are significantly off-track.

Addressing gender inequality through social protection
Social protection
Social protection, as defined by the United Nations Research Institute For Social Development, is concerned with preventing, managing, and overcoming situations that adversely affect people’s well being...

 programmes designed to increase equity would be an effective way of reducing gender inequality. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute
Overseas Development Institute
The Overseas Development Institute is one of the leading independent think tanks on international development and humanitarian issues. Based in London, its mission is "to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement...

 argue for the need to develop the following in social protection in order to reduce gender inequality and increase growth:
  • Community childcare to give women greater opportunities to seek employment;
  • Support parents with the care costs (e.g. South African child/disability grants);
  • Education stipends for girls (e.g. Bangladesh’s Girls Education Stipend scheme);
  • Awareness-raising regarding gender-based violence, and other preventive measures, such as financial support for women and children escaping abusive environments (e.g. NGO pilot initiatives in Ghana);
  • Inclusion of programme participants (women and men) in designing and evaluating social protection programmes;
  • Gender-awareness and analysis training for programme staff;
  • Collect and distribute information on coordinated care and service facilities (e.g. access to micro-credit and microentrepreneurial training for women); and
  • Developing monitoring and evaluation systems that include sex-disaggregated data.

However, politics plays an central role in the interests, institutions and ideas that are needed to reshape social welfare and gender inequality in politics and society limits governments' ability to act on economic incentives.

Another opportunity to tackle gender inequality is presented by modern Information and communication technologies
Information and communication technologies
Information and communications technology or information and communication technology, usually abbreviated as ICT, is often used as an extended synonym for information technology , but is usually a more general term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of...

. In a carefully controlled study, it has been shown that women embrace digital technology more than men, disproving the stereotype of "technophobic women". Given that digital information and communication technologies have the potential to provide access to employment, education, income, health services, participation, protection, and safety, among others (ICT4D), the natural affinity of women with these new communication tools provide women with a tangible bootstrapping opportunity to tackle social discrimination. In other words, if woman are provided with modern information and communication technologies
Information and communication technologies
Information and communications technology or information and communication technology, usually abbreviated as ICT, is often used as an extended synonym for information technology , but is usually a more general term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of...

, these digital tools represent an opportunity for women to fight longstanding inequalities in the workplace and at home.

See also

  • Affirmative action
    Affirmative action
    Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

  • Equal pay for women
    Equal pay for women
    Equal pay for women is an issue regarding pay inequality between men and women. It is often introduced into domestic politics in many first world countries as an economic problem that needs governmental intervention via regulation...

  • Feminism
    Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

  • Gender and education
    Gender and education
    Gender and education, from a sociological perspective, refers to the idea that the educational system does not offer the same type of opportunities for upward mobility to both genders equally...

  • Gender and suicide
    Gender and suicide
    The relationship between gender and suicide has been extensively researched by Western sociologists, given that males die much more often by means of suicide than do females, although reported suicide attempts are 3 times more common among females than males...

  • Gender differences
    Gender differences
    A sex difference is a distinction of biological and/or physiological characteristics associated with either males or females of a species. These can be of several types, including direct and indirect. Direct being the direct result of differences prescribed by the Y-chromosome, and indirect being...

  • Gender equality
    Gender equality
    Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

  • Gender inequality in Australia
    Gender inequality in Australia
    In Australia, gender inequality denotes the inconsistencies between individuals due to gender. The topic covers a variety of concerns from health to equal opportunity in terms of employment and wages.-Legislation:...

  • Global Gender Gap Report
    Global Gender Gap Report
    The Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006 by the World Economic Forum. The 2010 report covers 134 major and emerging economies....

  • Intra-household bargaining
    Intra-household bargaining
    Intra-household bargaining refers to negotiations that occur between members of a household in order to arrive at decisions regarding the household unit....

  • Masculism
    Masculism may refer to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing and defending political, economic, and social rights and participation in society for men and boys. These rights include legal issues, such as those of conscription, child custody, alimony, and equal pay for...

  • Men's Rights
    Men's rights
    Men's rights is an umbrella term, encompassing the political rights, entitlements, and freedoms given or denied to males within a nation or culture....

  • Microinequity
    Microinequity, according to Sandler, refers to the ways in which individuals are "either singled out, or overlooked, ignored, or otherwise discounted" based on an unchangeable characteristic such as race or gender. A microinequity generally takes the form of a gesture, different kind of language,...

  • Paycheck Fairness Act
    Paycheck Fairness Act
    The Paycheck Fairness Act is legislation being considered by the United States Congress to expand the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of an effort to address male–female income disparity in the United States...

     (in the US)
  • Sex segregation
    Sex segregation
    Sex segregation is the separation of people according to their sex.The term gender apartheid also has been applied to segregation of people by gender, implying that it is sexual discrimination...

  • Sexism
    Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...

  • Sexual dimorphism
    Sexual dimorphism
    Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

  • Shared parenting
    Shared parenting
    Shared parenting refers to a collaborative arrangement in child custody or divorce determinations in which the care of the children is equal or more than substantially shared between the biological parents.- Nature and History :...

  • Socialization
    Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies...

  • Women's rights
    Women's rights
    Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

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