The problem of gender inequality

Published: 06 December 2010


Gender inequality refers to the hidden or obvious disparity between individuals due to gender. Women have traditionally been viewed as being caring and nurturing and are designated to occupations which require such skills. Cultural stereotypes are engrained in both men and women and these stereotypes are a possible explanation for gender inequality which resulting in gendered wage disparity. During European Development Days, Neila Akrimi - Regional Project Manager, Association of Netherlands Municipalities, Justus Kangwagye - Mayor, Rulindo District from Rwana and Mary Okumu - the chief technical advisor on gender equitable local development with the United Nations Capital Development Fund, expressed their views on the struggle for women's equality.

First of all, what causes gender inequality?

Some sociologists turn to the surrounding systems that affect human behaviour. They highlighted the institutional structures that assign women and men different roles, positions and behaviours. Sexism occurs when men and women are framed within two dimensions of social cognition. Materialist theories are the most compelling explanations of gender inequality which use cross-cultural data on the status of men and women and explain gender inequality as an outcome of how particular person is tied to the economic structure of society. Neila Akrimi pointed out that women's roles of mother and wife deny women to find a paid work and to access to highly valued public resources. If women's work is directed inward to the family and men's work, the gender stratification is greater. In case when women do enter the labour market, they often are concentrated in lower-paying jobs. Nowadays women still have lower levels of education than men, however recently this trend seems to have begun to reverse.

Discrimination can take various forms: from forbidden from driving, education, right to divorce and clothing requirements to even female infanticide. Many governments around the world suppress society by restricting freedom of the press, media, expression and assembly. These restrictions adversely affect both genders, however women are often affected by others gender-specific human rights violations. Another question is how does the situation look when it comes to equality between women and men in the EU? Progress on this field, which is measured every year and presented in a Report on Equality shows that despite women represent a majority of students and university graduates, the employment rate of women is still lower than men's and earn on average 17.8% less for every hour. Also the division of family responsibilities is still very unequal between women and men and the risk of poverty more often affects women. Moreover, women are the main victims of gender-based violence and they are far from political decision-making positions, however the situation has improved during the last decade.

So how does EU fight against discrimination? Currently EU by spending even € 7 billion every year on aid outside of EU borders, is a global leader in providing financial support to poor countries. Also the EU has gradually pushed the human rights issue to the forefront of its relations with other countries and regions. There are more than 120 such agreements. The cooperation with third countries contain a clause stipulating that human rights are an essential element in the relations between the parties. Strong emphasis is put on efforts to stop trafficking in human beings, especially women and children.

Mary Okumu mentioned that we, as a society of developed countries, citizens of the EU, have already done a lot but we still have a lot of work to do. So for this reason, we can't rest on our laurels and out of a discussion we need to continue to work hard.