The new Gender Social Norms Index released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work and education, and contains data from 75 countries which cover over 80 per cent of the world's population.
The new analysis sheds light on why enormous “power gaps” still exist between men and women in our economies, our political systems and our corporations, despite real progress closing gender inequalities in basic areas of development like education and health, and the removal of legal barriers to political and economic participation.
For example, while men and women vote at similar rates, only 24 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women and there are only 10 female heads of government out of a possible 193. Women in the labour market are paid less than men and are much less likely to be in senior positions — less than six per cent of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are women. And while women work more hours than men, this work is more likely to be unpaid care work.
“The work that has been so effective in ensuring an end to gaps in health or education must now evolve to address something far more challenging — a deeply ingrained bias, among both men and women, against genuine equality. Current policies, while well intentioned, can only take us so far,” said Achim Steiner, administrator of UNDP.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25), the most visionary agenda on women's empowerment to date.
UNDP is calling on governments and institutions to use a new generation of policies to change these discriminatory beliefs and practices through education, and by raising awareness and changing incentives — for instance, by using taxes to incentivise fairly sharing childcare responsibilities, or by encouraging women and girls to enter traditionally male-dominated sectors such as the armed forces and information technology.
“#MeToo, #NiUnaMenos, #TimesUp, #UnVioladorEnTuCamino. The women's rights demonstrations we're seeing across the world today, energised by young feminists, are signalling that new alternatives for a different world are needed,” said Raquel Lagunas, UNDP Gender Team acting director.
“We must act now to break through the barrier of bias and prejudices if we want to see progress at the speed and scale needed to achieve gender equality and the vision laid out in the Beijing Declaration over two decades ago, and the sustainable development goals.”