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Gender Resources

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TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS , SENAIT FISSEHA

Women comprise 70% of health workers around the world. And yet a new report shows that 70% of health organizations are currently headed by men, and that the women working in these organizations earn 15% less, on average, than their male counterparts.

Since the start of the year, we have traveled from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where health workers administering the polio vaccine are battling snowstorms to reach children who need it, to North Kivu, where officials are trying to stop one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history.

Women comprise 70% of these and other health workers around the world. And yet a new report from Global Health 50/50, released on the eve of this year’s International Women’s Day, shows that men hold a disproportionate share of power in the health sector and earn a disproportionate share of pay.

Having spent part of our careers assembling a force of female health workers who reduced deaths from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in Ethiopia by half, we know the contributions women make to public health. That is why, under Ghebreyesus’s tenure as director-general, the World Health Organization has a gender-balanced cabinet for the first time in its history. And with gender parity achieved in the institution’s senior positions at headquarters, we will be working to ensure that regional and country offices follow suit.

Gender parity is a practical as well as a moral issue. Having more women in leadership positions effects positive change throughout an organization, improving performance, innovation, creativity, resilience, and morale. It provides role models and informal support systems that have historically been lacking for women in the workplace. And it reduces tolerance for toxic workplace behavior such as sexual harassment.

But gender is also a key social determinant of health, which makes gender parity in the health sector a necessary ingredient for reaching the WHO’s “triple billion” targets. The organization’s goal is to ensure that by 2023, one billion more people than today have full access to health care, greater protection from health emergencies, and better overall health and wellbeing.

Among other things, we know that gender – that is, the socially constructed norms, roles, and expectations placed on men and women – has a profound impact on whether one is exposed to unhealthy products and places, or whether one engages in health-seeking and health-protecting behaviors. We also know that gender-based discrimination can have a significant impact on the delivery of health services.

And yet, while focusing on gender as a social determinant of health and establishing gender parity at the WHO’s leadership level were no-brainers, the Global Health 50/50 report shows that we are the exception to the rule. Having reviewed the policies and practices of nearly 200 health organizations, comprising a workforce of more than four million people across 28 countries, the report finds vast power and pay asymmetries between men and women.

For example, Global Health 50/50 finds that over 70% of health organizations are currently headed by men, and that in 40% of the organizations reviewed, women occupy fewer than one-third of senior management positions. And few will be shocked to learn that the women working in these organizations earn 13.5% less, on average, than their male counterparts.

Sadly, these findings are in keeping with what one finds in boardrooms across the corporate and non-profit sectors. But such disparities are all the more worrying when they show up in the global health sector, given its role in protecting the wellbeing and rights of all people everywhere.

From the WHO’s experience, we know that gender parity does not emerge organically. Achieving it requires deliberate and directed organizational change. Hence, the WHO’s new corporate strategy, which is geared toward the Sustainable Development Agenda’s mission of “leaving no one behind,” features a strong emphasis on measuring gender distributions, equity, and rights across all of the institutions’ programs. That means each department will be accountable for upholding gender parity.

But while putting gender parity at the center of the WHO’s operations is an important first step, the larger goal is to support our member states in serving the people whose lives, health, and wellbeing depend on collective public-health efforts. To that end, three priorities should guide our approach to global health at all levels, from the local clinic delivering essential care to national health ministries and multilateral institutions.

First, we need to ensure that gender analysis informs all health strategies and program missions. Without fully understanding the gendered factors that drive human health, we cannot possibly achieve universal and equitable outcomes.

Second, we urgently need to close the power and pay gap between men and women in the health sector, by pursuing deliberate strategies to level the playing field for women.

And, third, we must recommit to transparency and accountability in health organizations, including on gender equality. Only then can we root out toxic management cultures, improve quality of care, and foster openness and inclusion at all levels.

When people of different genders and backgrounds come together, they bring their own experiences and wisdom, and the result amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Diverse organizations arrive at better decisions, because they can consider problems from a wide range of perspectives and draw potential solutions from multiple contexts. When it comes to global health organizations, government ministries, and national health institutions, gender equality should be embraced not just for its own sake, but also because it works.

The Authors;

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is the Director-General of the World Health Organization.

Senait Fisseha is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan, Chief Adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization, and a member of the Global Health 50/50 advisory council.

This article was adapted from the Project Syndicate.

Several years ago, we could say that there was a huge career gap between the genders all over the world. More women were involved in caregiving roles, family functions, and specific jobs which were considered suitable for women (because of the deeply rooted feminine features, and ability to multi-task within somewhat stress-free subtleties) such as teaching, nursing, and catering. Women were regarded as the “weaker sex” as they were generally considered incapable of keeping up with roles that involved security, physical strength and might, and an all-around mental/emotional stability.

The men, on the other hand, were seen as protectors, leaders, and builder who in most cases, have things figured out. This notion was born out of a close study of natural occurrences over time and not particularly because a certain category of the individual was selected to be marginalized. A meta-analysis concluded that men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people.

In the past in developing continents like Africa and Asia, customs and traditions dictated the roles of each member of the society. For instance, in rural African communities where communal living was the structure upon which they were built, girls were groomed to be home keepers and in order to avoid distractions, they weren’t sent to school. At that time, the only medals a woman could get revolved around being responsible through marriage, being a good home keeper (which included the proper training of her girl children), and the act of submission as a wife. Short of these, she was limited in vision not because she couldn’t dream big dreams, but rather because she didn’t even know what to dream about. Her society had made her short-sighted to the possibilities of career paths.

It was not the men that limited her by relegating her to the background and seizing choice jobs in exotic places. No! it was cultural norms passed down from one generation to the next. The custodians of these norms didn’t know any better. They saw a weaker sex and not the strength capable of causing socioeconomic development across nations of the world.

An article by Rebecca Onion titled “Unclaimed Treasures of Science “, reveals that as far back as the Cold War, there were already women in STEM in the developed countries. The official government line during the Cold War was: STEM careers for everyone! But as historians Margaret Rossiter and Sevan Terzian have pointed out, that push for science, technology, engineering, and math conflicted with gender norms and discriminatory institutional practices, resulting in a confusing set of mixed messages for women and girls. A book by historian Laura Micheletti Puaca titled “Searching for Scientific Womanpower: Technocratic Feminism and the Politics of National Security, 1940-1980 buttresses this point. Puaca wrote about female scientists, engineers, and educators who used innovative tactics to help women succeed in STEM, long before second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and the 1970s made issues of employment equity and stereotyping part of the national conversation.

According to the historian, World War II gave women their starting point. During the war, demands for more of what was often called “scientific manpower” and a shortage of civilian male workers prompted government and industry to start programs to train women in science and engineering. But when men returned from the service, women’s status in STEM fields worsened. The GI Bill sent a flood of male students to American universities, and opportunities—both for women who had gotten quick wartime training and for more established female scientists—dried up.

Importance of having women in STEM

It goes without saying that it has become a necessity to have more women in the STEM fields with the rush of digitalization consuming the world. The coming years will see massive changes in all sectors of the economy and nations of the world need to be prepared for this surge. Women constitute up to half of the world’s population, they are ready to be involved in developmental activities and should be put to good use. In addition, STEM-related organizations and groups must be commended for their relentless efforts towards encouraging a greater participation of women and girls in STEM fields and activities.

The way forward

Despite the successes already recorded regarding women participation in STEM activities, there is a lot of work to be done.

Mentors: There is the need for a greater support and encouragement from mentor figures. This will go a long way in women’s decisions of whether or not to continue pursuing a career in their discipline.

This may be particularly true for younger individuals who may face many obstacles early in their careers. Since these younger individuals often look to those who are more established in their discipline for help and guidance, the responsiveness and helpfulness of potential mentors are incredibly important.

Cultural Exchange: Another way to spike up the number of women in STEM is through Cultural exchanges.

It is true that some tribes and races have cultural barriers which may affect their decisions, cultural exchange programmes should be incorporated in those systems to enlighten such communities on the benefits of having women who are self-reliant.

By: Eruke Ojuederie

Despite the mountain of evidence from reputable organizations worldwide demonstrating the return on investment of promoting women to leadership positions, many companies remain in a time warp, continuing to pay lip service to equality and gender diversity.

A report, called the Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital, done by Babson College based in Wellesley, MA, found that in venture capital circles, women lose out.

The report, released last month, found that only 2.7 percent of the 6,517 companies in the United States that received venture capital funding between 2011 and 2013 were headed by a woman. And those companies only received 3 percent or $1.5-billion of the total $50.8-billion invested during that timeframe.

How does one explain the fact that highly educated people who profess to understand the business case for women still don’t get it?

My recent encounters with several clients seeking to shift the gender imbalance within their team caused me to reflect on isolating the root causes of persistent gender inequality and highlight the consequences of inaction.

In one instance, a senior vice-president in the financial services sector told me that he shared the news with his team regarding the promotion of one of his managers just prior to her taking maternity leave. Several managers questioned the timing and had difficulty accepting that she had earned the promotion.

In another situation, a major retailer received feedback from both men and women in leadership positions expressing their concerns about their company’s “women in leadership” initiative. Several female leaders said they were uncomfortable being singled out, while several men felt it was unfair that they were excluded from the group.

In both examples, despite the best intentions of leaders, workplace tensions over gender issues have increased as the root causes aren’t fully understood, leaving these organizations exposed to potential negative consequences to their bottom line and corporate image. Unfortunately, there are many similar scenarios playing out daily in industries worldwide.

What lies behind such reactions? Socialized conditioning is one explanation. We all learn to play specific roles from an early age, and it is a fact that these roles and stereotypes are internalized, reinforced and perpetuated in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
As adults, we may inadvertently find ourselves defaulting to the girl/boy conditioned responses in the most sophisticated business settings, without understanding that we are acting out roles learned in childhood.

The persistence of gender biases, whether structural or attitudinal, needs to be addressed for the following reasons:

  1. A new generation of talent demands equity and non-discrimination

Generations Y and the upcoming Z cohort closely scrutinize the character and leadership of a prospective employer. They are attracted to companies that not only take a stand on equality but also live and breathe it.

In a tight labour market, businesses can ill-afford to ignore the importance of their reputation to this new, highly savvy generation. Companies such as AutoNation, Lululemon, Starbucks, LinkedIn, and eBay successfully draw Gen Y talent to their executive board because appointing women gives them key strategic advantages, including representation at the highest level of their core customer base, the ability to hire sought-after thought leaders and innovators, as well as stimulating stronger financial performance.

Organizations that profoundly understand the mindset of the new workforce will be ideally positioned to attract, develop, retain and promote them.

  1. The female perspective enhances collective intelligence

Research first reported in Science Magazine regarding the contribution of women to the collective intelligence of a team garnered worldwide attention, particularly the studies highlighting the performance of women when tested on tasks relating to brainstorming, complex problem-solving and decision-making. The findings confirmed that a group’s collective intelligence was strengthened by the inclusion of women and their enhanced capacity for listening, collaborating and intuitiveness.

The CIA is one example of an organization that made a notable transformation of its culture by not only ensuring women had greater representation in senior positions but also explicitly recognizing that it was women on their team who discovered the location of Osama Bin Laden, allowing for him to be captured.

  1. Second generation biases hinder career opportunities

Subtle, pervasive barriers hindering opportunities for women’s career progression remain embedded in organizational structures, even though companies tout policies of equal opportunity.

In addition, characteristics typically associated with desired leadership traits remain largely masculine. These second-generation biases influence hiring practices, promotional opportunities and the limited appointment of women to senior positions.

Enlightened organizations are gaining the strategic advantage by overhauling the configuration of their leadership team and the structures that no longer serve their growth objectives.

  1. More women in leadership boost your bottom line

The financial benefits of greater gender equity are undeniable. Extensive global research conducted by Credit Suisse, Catalyst and McKinsey & Co. examining the link between women on boards and stronger financial performance of Fortune 500 companies has been cited in numerous publications. Examining the return on sales, return on invested capital, and return on equity, their research confirmed that companies with women on their boards of directors outperform those with the least number of women by significant margins in each category.

An organization can augment its fiscal position by making a concerted effort to significantly increase female representation at the executive level.

  1. Governments are mandating gender equity legislation

Ontario Securities Commission is moving forward with its “comply or explain” proposal asking companies to disclose the gender specifics of their board, as well as their plans and procedures to increase female representation in their executive and boards.

The OSC’s recommended rules for disclosure by TSX-listed companies, to be implemented by the end of this year, have been adopted by seven provinces and two territories, the regulator said this week.

While many governments and business leaders agree that change is needed based on the reasons above, not all are in favour of the move, arguing that companies should either regulate themselves or insisting the definition of equality be broader.

Canada would not be the first country to mandate gender equity for businesses. Norway took the lead in 2008. Iceland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands were next. Malaysia and Brazil have implemented quotas while Australia, Britain, and Sweden are advocating that firms voluntarily implement minimum female board appointments.

Ready or not, agree or disagree, there is no doubt the debate will continue – and your organization will ultimately determine its own destiny when it comes to gaining the strategic advantage of gender equity.

Source: The Globe & Mail
Title: Why you want more women in your boardroom

Maria is a successful businesswoman from Mexico who had always wanted to gain education and pursue a career in any of the science related fields, but never had the opportunity because her late father believed that a woman’s role is limited to the home.

However, Maria vowed to ensure that her daughters must live up to this dream.

But one day, she asked her 9-year-old daughter what she wanted to become when she grows up, and she quickly answered that she wants to be a writer or a teacher. She then asked her 7-year-old son the same question, and he proudly said that he wants to be a scientist or an engineer. These answers made a whole lot of sense considering that her daughter loves reading books and taking care of her American Girl doll while her son enjoys looking up science experiments and making Coke bottles explode with Mentos. But they never went down well with Maria.

You might want to pause and think, “what’s so wrong with this story?” After all, we need teachers and writers as much as we need scientists and engineers. Besides, what a kid wants to be when he or she is in elementary school isn’t necessarily indicative of their future career choices… right?

Fast-forward eight years. My junior year of high school, I took both IB Biology and IB Physics. The number of girls in my IB Biology class was about the same as the number of boys in the class. On the other hand, the number of girls in my IB Physics class was significantly smaller than the number of boys in the class. Similarly, in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s top science and engineering competition for high school students, women made up 54 percent of the finalists in the biochemistry category but only 17 percent of the finalists in the computer science category.

Fast-forward eight more years. In 2010, women received on average about 14 percent of computer science undergraduate degrees at major research universities, and that number has not changed much since then. The trend that started in the elementary school that encourages girls to go into the humanities and boys to go into engineering and mathematics has prevailed throughout high school, college, and well into the workplace. The stereotypes we ingrain into our children at as early an age as four or five don’t just magically disappear when they get older. Instead, those stereotypes strengthen as children grow older and continue to explore the society that continually reinforces these stereotypes.

Why is it so important that we encourage more women to go into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Many of my friends, classmates, and even adult teachers and neighbors (both male and female) whom I have spoken to about this issue don’t seem to understand what the big deal is. So what if women hold less than 20% of computer science or engineering degrees? So what if fewer and fewer female students are enrolling in physics and technology classes as the years go by? We’ve come a long way since the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they tell me. Maybe it’s time to give it a rest.

Here’s why it’s so important to encourage more women to go into STEM fields. In a country in which the average women still earn 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns, and in a country in which the majority of single parents are single mothers, getting more women into STEM could both reduce the gender wage gap and ensure that single mothers don’t have to struggle to put food on the table. Not only are there currently more jobs in the STEM field than in any other industry, but most of these high-tech jobs are high-paying, as well. According to the National Council for Women and Information Technology, there will be around 1.4 million computer specialist job openings expected in the U.S. by 2020. Women have the capability to hold 50 percent of those jobs. Yet, in order to get to the point where women earn fifty percent of STEM degrees and hold fifty percent of STEM jobs, we need to start at the very beginning.

By the very beginning, I mean pre-K, when kids are just beginning to learn basic math and science skills and most likely have not yet been exposed to the stereotypes regarding men and women in STEM. By the time women reach college or even high school, it may be too late to change their minds about going into STEM. After all, choosing a major or a career is a lifelong process of determining what we enjoy doing. And much of what we enjoy doing is determined early on by outside forces such as parents, teachers, and society’s general expectations.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, recently mentioned that of the 35 kids in a Stanford technology camp for young children, only five were girls. Of those five girls, Sandberg herself had enrolled two of them (her niece and her niece’s friend). What does this say about the parents of the girls who could have been in that camp? If a girl’s parents don’t believe in their daughter’s ability to succeed in engineering and technology, how can we expect that girl to grow up and believe in it herself? In order to get more women into STEM, we need to start by eliminating our subconscious attempts to gear our young boys towards STEM and keep our young girls in the dark.

Now, what about those of us who don’t have children yet? Can we do anything to help the gender gap in STEM? Yes, yes we can. According to Jocelyn Goldfein, the director of engineering at Facebook, the reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is “because there aren’t more women computer scientists.” If girls see that most of their female mentors and older female friends aren’t going into STEM, they are less likely to go into those fields themselves. Part of the reason behind this phenomenon is the stereotype threat, which states that if we are aware of a stereotype, we are more likely to act in accordance with it. In order to help our young girls to not be afraid of STEM fields such as engineering and computer science, older girls and young women need to show that we are not afraid of these fields ourselves.

Individually, we can’t change the fact girls make up a very small percentage of the programmers, engineers, and scientists shown on television and in movies, nor can we change the way the media portrays girl “geeks.” What we can do, however, is to make a difference in the lives of the young girls we know personally. And one day, the young girls we help will grow up to cure diseases, write computer programs, discover the next technological advances, and ultimately change the world.

Written by Celia Islam
Source: huffingtonpost.com
Title: Closing the STEM Gender Gap: Why Is It Important and What Can You Do to Help?

“I think you should focus on your role as a wife and mother.”

Those were the words Beatrice received from a bank manager while bidding for a loan to start up a business. She had walked home unhappy under the scorching sun, again – she had been turned down by the bank who refused to give her a loan to start up her business.

Each time Beatrice visits the bank, it turned out to be a bad day for her, they give her one hundred and one reasons why they think her business will never succeed. On this particular day she asked to see the bank manager who had conversed with her, and bluntly told her “we usually do not invest in women-owned businesses because we don’t think that they could sustain the pressure of growing a business, I think you should focus on your role as a wife and mother”.

She was stunned at his response and repeatedly asked herself how those self-made female business tycoons made it to the top?

“Did they actually pass through this process?” “Or is it just me?” Beatrice wondered.

Poor Beatrice; many female entrepreneurs around the world have shared similar experiences. They claim that they had no shortage of innovation or business ideas but the major barrier is undercapitalization and gender bias. Testimonies of many female entrepreneurs, about how they started their businesses, and the difficulties they faced, have reflected a similar pattern, they lack access to funding and support from the government, banks, and the incubator communities.

Women have claimed that being a woman entrepreneur comes with different hurdles than those of their male counterparts.

Shelley True of TrueDotDesign also gave her account of how she was turned down several times by money lenders and banks.  “I had to go to a number of lenders and banks and was turned down several times, for no real reason.” Even when she exceeded the revenue numbers the banks demanded approval, “they still turned me down” – she said.

Gender barrier is a normal challenge faced by women entrepreneurs while trying to start or grow their businesses, which has also resulted in the loss of confidence among many women in the business world. Each time this happens many women tend to give up on their business ideas, projects and dreams, just because they couldn’t find capital.

The journey to the top for many women in business are filled with potholes and when once that can be avoided, the woman entrepreneur would be able to achieve success.

Meanwhile, a particular school of thought is raising the notion against the amount of effort exerted on the push for gender equality, saying that the movement has gone too far. Hearing this for the first time, you might want to pause and take a closer look at the meaning of that assertion, but how convincing can that be? When there are still women all over the world complaining about the struggles they go through in the business world based on their gender.

People often argue that most Western societies have achieved gender equality and women have all the same legal rights as men, but on the other hand, feminists continue to argue that the battle for gender equality is not yet won.

The curiosity about this matter is why have the banks, investors and governments failed to believe in the women. Different people are of different opinions as to why these things happen, but one of the common opinions is Gender Discrimination.

Even while the government claimed to have created various programs that are aimed at helping women entrepreneurs, many women still find the government programs to be inherently biased.

Speaking about the Government bias programmes, Jennifer Schoenhofer, the CEO and president of Axis Teknologies, a wireless infrastructure engineering firm in Marietta, Ga said “the federal government’s program to award 5 percent of contracts to women-owned businesses annually is meagre compared with the roughly 15 percent that minority business owners can get, – That in itself is inequality to me,” she stressed.

Despite the programs, training, grants, and support that female entrepreneurs have at their disposals, this debate still heats like a thunderbolt whenever it is raised. This issue appeals to every woman in the business world irrespective of the country or region they are from.

It is a general problem, considering the various annual listings of world billionaires, there is a clear observation about that these listings are male dominated.

Should the women give up and let things happen the way they will?

If anyone is of that opinion, it is as good as a bad idea because women play a huge role in the current world’s economy, it is therefore unhealthy to understate the importance of female entrepreneurs in any economy of the world.

Women are highly ambitious and often start their career at a young age. They cover many spheres of life from the media to fashion, sales, banking and many more. Presently there is no sector that is void of a woman.

However, there are still women whose journey has been a tough one and have not been able to achieve their aim without headaches and bumps in the road. Within them is a groaning pain to grow their businesses and succeed in life.

The gap between men and women rights to many of life advantages is still wide including the business sphere. Women entrepreneur are still faced with trials and tribulations of fundraising and gender bias, which means that there should be more room for the continuity of the gender equality pursuit.

Miracle Nwankwo

Author: Meghan Werft

Gender Bias. Child care. “Old Boys Clubs.” These are just some of the patriarchal roadblocks women face to entering the male-dominated field of politics. There are over 500,000 elected government positions in the US. For those to be equally represented between genders, experts estimate it could take anywhere between 100-500 years. 

Women hold 19.6% of elected seats in the US Congress, and 20% in the Senate according to a study from Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. This number increases to 24% for state legislator positions but is still nowhere near gender parity.

Meanwhile, women are six times more likely than men to report being responsible for managing household chores, and a whopping 15 times more likely to report bearing the brunt of managing care for children, according to a study from Pew Research Center.

The City of New York University found that men were 15% more likely to be encouraged by their peers to run for government than women.

Beyond those entrenched stereotypes about gender roles, though, there are a number of complex and nuanced issues that act as barriers to gender parity in the political sphere.

Here is a deeper look at the barriers women in politics are up against today.

‘Who Me? Yes, You! If Not Then Who?’

The first barrier is simple and surprising: many women don’t even see politics as a career option. “There’s this disconnect in our thinking of what that job looks like…It’s a job like any other and I think we still haven’t cracked open the fact that this is a job for women,” Elyse Shaw, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told Global Citizen.

Shaw assisted on a study from IWPR called “Building Women’s Political Careers: Strengthening the Pipeline to Higher Office,”  where women were interviewed about their decisions to run for office. “I think more women are getting involved in politics. But one of the major findings, at least for me, out of this study was that a lot of women don’t see politics as a career,” Shaw said.

Shaw added that women often see politics as a hobby or side-job, and one that often needs a second income to support it. In addition to not seeing politics as a career, girls and women are seldom encouraged to run for office, according to Clare Bresnahan, Executive Director of She Should Run, an organization encouraging women to run for local and federal office positions.

“Even at earlier ages, in their college years, women have reported not being encouraged to run for office. Much like in the STEM fields,” Bresnahan told Global Citizen. “Women and girls don’t see themselves as reflected. When women run for office they win at the same rates. But they aren’t encouraged to run.”

In a recent study from American University, 22% of women surveyed said they felt qualified to run for office compared to 35% of men who were surveyed, Vox reports.

“It took 10 years volunteering to have the actual self-confidence to say, ‘I can run for office,’” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the New York Times. “Women are the biggest self-doubters.”

Male Incumbency

When women make it past the confidence barrier, there is still the challenge of defeating men who have held elected positions for decades. “Politics is one of those areas where the ‘old boys club’ still rules, so it’s hard [for women] to tap into it. You have the incumbency issues. It’s really hard when you have the same white men who’ve been around for a while,” Shaw said. “It’s hard for women, Democratic or Republican.”

And it doesn’t help that male members of Congress are twice as likely to run unopposed as female members. “Congress has historically been all male, and members of Congress get reelected at rates above 90 percent. That means you’re basically waiting for people to retire,” Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University told Vox.

“Politics is an ‘old boys’ club. That’s the bottom line,” said Brenda Carter, campaign director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, a group working to get women, especially women of color, into politics. “Women and people of color have been excluded from political power in a number of ways.”

Even at earlier ages, in their college years, women have reported not being encouraged to run for office. Much like in the STEM fields.

So what can help?

Quotas, affirmative measures that set fixed numbers or percentages for representation often of a minority group in politics, are one method to consider in order to help accelerate the slow growth rate of women entering politics due to male incumbency. Countries like Sweden have installed gender quotas. Next year in Sweden, 40% of candidates on ballots will be women, required by law. Bolivia installed gender parity quota in 2009 and now 53% of elected government officials are women.

While experts like Elyse Shaw believe this is less likely to happen in the US, she points instead to cities and states who employ a method called “rank choice voting,” where constituents can rank political candidates in order of preference. 

Rank choice voting can help get more women, especially women of color, on voter’s radars and give women a better chance at winning, according to Representation 2020, a group working for gender parity in politics. The group studied rank choice voting in San Francisco and found more women and candidate of color won.

Rank choice voting can lessen the impact of split votes, where third-party votes are essentially lost because multiple candidates from the same community can still be counted according to Representation 2020’s report. For women, this can be huge.

They say in the report that by including women in a ballot that uses rank choice, a woman may not be a voters’ first choice but more people are likely to include women as second or third choices, which can result in more women and candidates of color winning according to their report.

It will take structural changes in recruitment,  and electoral and legislative rules, like expanding inclusive measure such as rank choice voting, to reach equal gender representation in the US according to Representation 2020.

Family Protection and Gender Bias

“Women are held to harsher standards for things like appearance and family,” Bresnahan said. “It doesn’t hamper their ambition, but it is more of a factor in their decision to run.”

Shaw said that women are more likely to consider the effect their running for office has on their children.

“There were a lot of women in the study who said they didn’t want to run because they didn’t want their kids to be in the limelight,” Shaw said. 

In addition, social media has brought a new wave of gender – bias to politics for women according to Name It Changes It, a project from She Should Run and the Women’s Media Center, working to end gender – bias in politics. 

Politics is an ‘old boys’ club.’ That’s the bottom line.

More people reported seeing gender – bias in social media (27%) than other outlets such as televised news (16%) and broadcast (12%), Name It Change It reports.

Because women tend to consider the impact on their families and children more than male candidates, they often choose to run either earlier or later in life or have children after they are in office, according to Shaw.

Tapping Into Networks

Women also face challenges in fundraising, but not exactly in the way you might think. It’s not just about raising money, but instead in tapping into lasting networks of financial political support.

“Teaching women to ask when it comes to fundraising isn’t the hard part. The hard part is tapping into established networks of funders or new networks of funding,” Shaw said. “It’s a sponsorship issue.”

According to a report by Political Parity more women gain support from individual donors rather than established networks, like organizations and businesses, that donate to political candidates. The result of this is that donations are not as long-lasting and women have to work harder to raise the same amounts in the future, according to the report.

So getting established politicians to support women new to running for office is essential to getting more women into the field. Fortunately, there are groups and support networks that can help.

Set nonpartisan organizations to help women tap into funding networks, like the Women’s Campaign Fund, can provide a support network for the brave women who are both paving the path and considering running for office today.

“Women’s committees can be a big asset and helpful for supporting each other in an office. They can be good for bipartisan cooperation,” Shaw said.

Today, motivators like She Should Run, Emily’s List, Latina’s Represent, Name It Change It, the Barbara Lee Foundation, Representation 2020, and She Should Run’s Incubator program and campaign, Ask a Woman to Run, are just some of tools available for women toying with the idea of a political career.

“There are so many [more] organizations, resources, for women entering politics than in the past,” Bresnahan said.

The Silver Lining to Barriers

The good news is that most of these barriers can be broken with societal shifts and changes in the way we perceive both gender norms and politics.

Treating a government position like the actual career it is could encourage girls and women to consider politics as a career earlier in life, says Elyse Shaw. Challenging gender norms that women are responsible for childcare and family rearing, along with making child care more accessible, could also help. This, however, is more complicated than it seems.

“It’s hard because those are societal shifts that can be hard to address. But it’s also a catch-22 because having more women in office would help address those things [like child care.] It could normalize it,” Shaw said.

NOT long ago women faced tremendous barriers as they sought opportunities that would set them on an equal footing with men. Going back a mere quarter century, inequality between women and men was widely apparent—in university classrooms, in the workplace, and even in homes. Since then, the lives of women and girls around the world have improved dramatically in many respects. In most countries—rich and developing—they are going to school more, living longer, getting better jobs, and acquiring legal rights and protections.

But large gender gaps remain. Women and girls are more likely to die, relative to men and boys, in many low- and middle-income countries than their counterparts in rich countries. Women earn less and are less economically productive than men almost everywhere across the world. And women have less opportunity to shape their lives and make decisions than do men.

According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report; Gender Equality and Development, closing these gender gaps matters for development and policymaking. Greater gender equality can enhance economic productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions and policies more representative.

Many gender disparities remain even as countries develop, which calls for sustained and focused public action. Corrective policies will yield substantial development payoffs if they focus on persistent gender inequalities that matter most for welfare. To be effective, these measures must target the root causes of inequality without ignoring the domestic political economy.

Mixed progress

Every aspect of gender equality, access to education and health, economic opportunities, and voice within households and society, has experienced a mixed pattern of change over the past quarter-century. In some areas, such as education, the gender gap has closed for almost all women; but progress has been slower for those who are poor and face other disadvantages, such as ethnicity. In other areas, the gap has been slow to close, even among well-off women and in countries that have otherwise developed rapidly.

In primary education, the gender gap has closed in almost all countries, and it is shrinking quickly in secondary education. Indeed, in almost one-third of developing countries, girls now outnumber boys in secondary schools. There are more young women than men in universities in two-thirds of the countries for which there are data: women today represent 51 percent of the world’s university students. Yet more than 35 million girls do not attend school in developing countries, compared with 31 million boys, and two-thirds of these girls are members of ethnic minorities.

Since 1980, women have been living longer than men in all parts of the world. But across all developing countries, more women and girls still die at younger ages relative to men and boys, compared with rich countries. As a result of this “excess female mortality,” about 3.9 million girls and women under 60 are “missing” each year in developing countries. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-sixth die in early childhood and more than one-third die during their reproductive years. Female mortality is growing in sub-Saharan Africa, especially for women of childbearing age and in the countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS pandemic (World Bank, 2011, Chapter 3).

More than half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force over the past 30 years, and women now account for more than 40 percent of workers worldwide. One reason for increased workforce participation is an unprecedented reduction in fertility in developing countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with improvements in female education. Yet women everywhere tend to earn less than men (World Bank, 2011, especially Chapter 5). The reasons are varied. Women are more likely than men to work as unpaid family laborers or in the informal sector. Women farmers cultivate smaller plots and less profitable crops than male farmers. And women entrepreneurs operate smaller businesses in less lucrative sectors.

As for rights and voice, almost every country in the world has now ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Yet, in many countries, women (especially poor women) have less say than men when it comes to decisions and resources in their households. Women are also much more likely to suffer domestic violence—in developing and rich countries. And in all countries, rich and poor alike, fewer women participate in formal politics, especially at higher levels.

Gender equality and development

Gender equality is important in its own right. Development is a process of expanding freedoms equally for all people—male and female (Sen, 2009). Closing the gap in well-being between males and females is as much a part of development as is reducing income poverty. Greater gender equality also enhances economic efficiency and improves other development outcomes. It does so in three main ways:

  • First, with women now representing 40 percent of the global labor force and more than half the world’s university students, overall productivity will increase if their skills and talents are used more fully. For example, if women farmers have the same access as men to productive resources such as land and fertilizers, agricultural output in developing countries could increase by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent (FAO, 2011). Elimination of barriers against women working in certain sectors or occupations could increase output by raising women’s participation and labor productivity by as much as 25 percent in some countries through better allocation of their skills and talent (Cuberes and Teignier-Baqué, 2011).

 

  • Second, greater control over household resources by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, can enhance countries’ growth prospects by changing spending in ways that benefit children. Evidence from countries as varied as Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom shows that when women control more household income—either through their own earnings or through cash transfers—children benefit as a result of more spending on food and education (World Bank, 2011).

 

  • Finally, empowering women as economic, political, and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices. In India, giving power to women at the local level led to the greater provision of public goods, such as water and sanitation, which mattered more to women (Beaman and others, 2011).

The second part of the article can start here.

Gearing up development: How gender equality evolves as development proceeds can best be understood through the responses of households to the functioning and structure of markets and institutions—both formal (such as laws, regulations, and delivery of government services) and informal (such as gender roles, norms, and social networks).

This framework helps demonstrate why the gender gap in education enrollment has closed so quickly. In this case, income growth (by loosening budget constraints on households and the public treasury), markets (by opening new employment opportunities for women), and formal institutions (by expanding schools and lowering costs) have come together to influence household decisions in favor of educating girls and young women across a range of countries.

The framework also helps explain why poor women still face sizable gender gaps, especially those who experience not only poverty but also other forms of exclusion, such as living in a remote area, being a member of an ethnic minority, or suffering from a disability. In India and Pakistan, for instance, while there is no difference between the number of boys and girls enrolled in education for the richest fifth of the population, there is a gap of almost five years for the poorest fifth. The illiteracy rate among indigenous women in Guatemala is twice that among nonindigenous women and 20 percentage points higher than for indigenous men. Market signals, improved service delivery institutions, and higher incomes, which have generally favored the education of girls and young women, fail to reach these severely disadvantaged populations.

 

Policy implications: To bring about gender equality, policymakers need to focus their actions on five clear priorities: reducing the excess mortality of girls and women; eliminating remaining gender disadvantages in education; increasing women’s access to economic opportunity and thus earnings and productivity; giving women an equal voice in households and societies; and limiting the transmission of gender inequality across generations.

To reduce the excess mortality of girls and women, it is necessary to focus on the underlying causes at each age. Given girls’ higher susceptibility (relative to boys’) in infancy and early childhood to waterborne infectious diseases, improving water supply and sanitation, as Vietnam has done, is key to reducing excess female mortality in this age group (World Bank, 2011). Improving health care delivery to expectant mothers, as Sri Lanka did early in its development process and Turkey has done more recently, is critical. In the areas of sub-Saharan Africa most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, broader access to antiretroviral drugs and reducing the incidence of new infections must be the focus. To counter sex-selective abortions that lead to fewer female births, most notably in China and northern India, the societal value of girls must be enhanced, as Korea has done.

To shrink education gaps in countries where they persist, barriers to access because of poverty, ethnicity, or geography must come down. For example; where distance is the key problem (as in rural areas of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), establishing more schools in remote areas can reduce the gender gap. When customized solutions are hard to implement or too costly, demand-side interventions, such as cash transfers conditioned on school attendance, can help get girls from poor families to school. Such conditional cash transfers have succeeded in increasing girls’ enrollment rates in countries as diverse as Mexico, Turkey, and Pakistan (World Bank, 2011).

To broaden women’s access to economic opportunity, thereby reducing male-female disparity in earnings and economic productivity, a combination of policies is called for. Solutions include freeing up women’s time so they can work outside the home—for example, through subsidized child care, as in Colombia; improving women’s access to credit, as in Bangladesh; and ensuring access to productive resources—especially land—as in Ethiopia, where joint land titles are now granted to wives and husbands. Addressing lack of information about women’s productivity in the workplace and eliminating institutional biases against women, for example by introducing quotas that favor women or job placement programs as in Jordan, will also open up economic opportunity to women.

To diminish gender differences in household and societal voice, policies need to address the combined influence of social norms and beliefs, women’s access to economic opportunities, the legal framework, and women’s education. Measures that increase women’s control over household resources and laws that enhance their ability to accumulate assets, especially by strengthening their property rights, are important. Morocco’s recent family law reforms strengthened women’s property rights by equalizing husbands’ and wives’ ownership rights over property acquired during the marriage. Ways to give women a greater voice in society include political representation quotas, training of future women leaders, and expanding women’s involvement in trade unions and professional associations.

To limit gender inequality over time, reaching adolescents and young adults iskey. Decisions made during this stage of life determine skills, health, economic opportunities, and aspirations in adulthood. To ensure that gender gaps do not persist over time, policies must emphasize building human and social capital (as in Malawi with cash transfers given directly to girls to either stay in or return to school); easing the transition from school to work (as with job and life skills training programs for young women in Uganda); and shifting aspirations (by exposing girls to such role models as women political leaders in India).

Domestic policy action is crucial, but the international community can complement efforts in each of these priority areas. This will require new or additional action on multiple fronts—some combination of more funding, coordinated efforts to foster innovation and learning, and more effective partnerships. Funding should be directed particularly to the poorest countries’ efforts to reduce excess deaths of girls and women (through investment in clean water and sanitation and maternal services) and to reduce persistent education gender gaps. Partnerships must also extend beyond those between governments and development agencies to include the private sector, civil society organizations, and academic institutions in developing and rich countries.

And while so much remains to be done, in many ways the world has already changed by finally recognizing that gender equality is good for both women and men. More and more, we are all realizing that there are many benefits—economic and others—that will result from closing gender gaps. A man from Hanoi, Vietnam, one of the thousands of people surveyed for the World Development Report, observed, “I think women nowadays increasingly enjoy more equality with men. They can do whatever job they like. They are very strong. In some families, the wife is the most powerful person. In general, men still dominate, but women’s situation has greatly improved. Equal cooperation between husband and wife is happiness. I think happiness is when equality exists between couples”

By: Ana Revenga and SudhirShetty