Change the system, not women, for gender parity, writes UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres – analysis
Gender equality offers solutions to some of the most difficult problems to solve in our time.
Everywhere, women are worse than men, simply because they are women. The reality for minority women, older women, people with disabilities and migrant and refugee women is even worse.
While we have seen tremendous progress in women’s rights in recent decades, from the abolition of discriminatory laws to a greater number of girls in school, we now face a powerful setback. Legal protections against rape and domestic abuse are being diluted in some countries, while policies that penalize women, from austerity to coercive reproduction, are being introduced in others. Women’s reproductive rights are threatened by all parties.
All this is because gender equality is fundamentally a matter of power. Centuries of discrimination and entrenched patriarchy have created a gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations. The evidence is everywhere.
Women are still excluded from the main table, from governments to corporate meetings and awards ceremonies. Women leaders and public figures face harassment, threats and abuse online and offline. The gender pay gap is only a symptom of the gender power gap.
Even neutral data that inform decision-making from urban planning to drug testing are often based on a “predetermined man”; Men are seen as standard, while women are an exception.
Women and girls also struggle with centuries of misogyny and the elimination of their achievements. They are ridiculed as hysterical or hormonal; they are routinely judged by their appearance; they are subject to endless myths and taboos about their natural bodily functions; they face everyday sexism, explanations and blame the victims.
Take the inequality. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. The latest research by the World Economic Forum says it will take 257 years to close this gap.
Digital technology is another case in question. The lack of gender balance in universities, new businesses and the Silicon Valley of our world is deeply worrisome. These technology centers are shaping the societies and economies of the future; We cannot allow them to strengthen and exacerbate male dominance.
Or take the wars that are devastating our world. There is a straight line between violence against women, civil oppression and conflict. The way in which a society treats the female half of its population is a significant indicator of how it will treat others. Even in peaceful societies, many women are in mortal danger in their own homes.
There is even a gender gap in our response to the climate crisis. Initiatives to reduce and recycle are overwhelmingly marketed among women, while men are more likely to rely on unproven technological solutions. And women economists and parliamentarians are more likely than men to support pro-environmental policies.
Finally, political representation is the clearest evidence of the gender power gap. An average of 3 to 1 in parliaments worldwide exceeds women, but their presence is strongly correlated with innovation and investment in health and education. It is no coincidence that governments that are redefining economic success to include well-being and sustainability are led by women.
Our world is in trouble, and gender equality is part of the answer. Man-made problems have human-directed solutions. Gender equality is a means of redefining and transforming the power that will generate benefits for all.
It is time to stop trying to change women and begin to change the systems that prevent them from reaching their potential.
Antonio Gutteres is Secretary General, United Nations
The opinions expressed are personal.