You’ve probably heard about the gender gap and there’s a reason why: it’s an issue that permeates practically every industry, but especially tech. The gender gap is defined as a relative disparity between people of different genders and although it’s typically associated with the salary differences between men and women, it can also refer to rights, benefits, or levels of participation and access.
The Global Gender Gap Report is an annual publication that evaluates the existing gaps between men and women in the following areas: economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, educational attainment, and political empowerment. Through its analysis of 146 countries, it determined that at the current rate, it will take 132 years to reach gender parity. But there’s no reason to panic: significant progress has been made and it will continue to advance over time.
Gender gap stats
The gender gap varies significantly depending on where we’re looking. Let’s break down the main gender gaps that exist in the workforce: the pay gap and the employment gap.
On a global level, women are paid about 20 cents less than men and 25% more men are employed than women.
In Europe, 11% more men are employed than women and hourly, women earn an average of 13% less than men.
In the United States, women earn about 17 cents less than men and women have a significantly lower chance of getting promoted.
We could dedicate entire blog series or even whitepapers to the gender gap, what it is, the forms it can take, and much more. But for now, we’re going to focus on the effects of the gender gap and the steps that can be taken to reduce it.
The Effects of the Gender Gap
The simple truth is that the gender gap has significant effects in society and starts affecting people from childhood. Stereotypes can affect how children see themselves from a young age and influence the choices adolescents make about what to study, where to study, and their future opportunities. And while the majority of the effects of gender inequality are clear, such as lower pay or limited opportunities for career growth, there are more effects that are so ingrained in our society that we may not even realize.
For example, even as the two-parent households with both parents employed continues to rise, women are still disproportionately tasked with household chores and responsibilities. Studies show that on average, women spend 8.5 more hours on domestic chores a week than men. Similarly, women are typically the ones who provide unofficial and unpaid care to family members. In addition to the unpaid nature of such a responsibility, taking care of ill or disabled family members can take a toll on the caregiver’s own mental health.
Education is another area that is seriously affected by the gender gap. While overall access to education has improved over recent years, certain areas are more affected than others and girls tend to have limited access to universities or higher education. Some areas, like tech, are more affected than others by this: girls who don’t complete high school are usually not even introduced to the basics of tech. But there are also other consequences of underdeveloped educational opportunities: women who don’t have access to sexual and reproductive health education severely affects their chances at advancing to further education.
In the workplace, even women who hold high-level degrees and positions are still faced with gender-based discrimination and practices designed for men. For example, women are frequently asked about their family planning/pregnancy plans in interviews and are expected to take significant time off when expecting a child. And that’s not even mentioning assumptions that women will be the ones to take days off to care for sick children, attend sporting or school events, or place their priority on their children and not work - something that is not generally associated with their male counterparts.
The effects of such assumptions and expectations can have drastic consequences and can lead to the following situations:
Lower rates of schooling and employment for women
Lower pay for similar work
Higher stress levels
Higher rates of unpaid work (childcare, caring for family members)
Exposure to higher levels of sexual assault and gender-based violence
A lack of representation in government
And that’s not all: this imbalance can lead to mental health issues. When compared to men, women are:
2x likely to suffer from anxiety and have a panic disorder
2x likely to suffer from depression throughout their lives
4-10x more likely to suffer from eating disorders
More than 2x likely to suffer from PTSD
More likely to attempt suicide
How to Combat the Gender Gap
Many of the issues associated with the gender gap come from systematic oppression and a long history of structures designed for men. However, progress has been made recently and will continue to be made. Here’s some of the main things we can do to foster growth opportunities for women:
Invest in infrastructure: there are so many factors why women may be deterred from entering the workforce or pursuing higher education and governments need to take the proper steps to protect these rights. In Mexico, for example, the government implemented women-only buses to promise safe travel and the Indian government built adequate sanitation facilities to ensure women felt comfortable at work or school.
Push for parity in maternity/paternity leave: first, all countries need to offer generous maternity leave to all new mothers but second, they have to offer equal maternity and paternity leave to guarantee that both parents are responsible for taking time off and not just the woman.
Make childcare accessible or free: childcare is extremely expensive and more often than not, the woman is the one who gives up her job or switches to part-time to stay at home with children. Companies and countries that offer free or low-cost childcare help encourage women returning to the workforce post-pregnancy.
Provide women with the tools they need to succeed: women face different barriers to education and employment such as higher loan rates and gender discrimination; governments need to prioritize facilitating access to women.
There’s a long way to go today to achieve gender parity but progress is being made daily, thanks to increased global awareness and an overall higher importance placed on the issue. And the most important part is that we continue our fight until we reach equality.