Danielle C., journalist
Women comprise largely 50% of the total world population. Yet, this ratio does not hold true in the workforce. Since movements in the 20th century that pushed for equal access to education, women have increasingly achieved educational levels that match – if not overcome – those of men. However, this fact remains unseen as women continue to face not only inequality through wage gaps but also the prevention of stepping up and attaining key positions within valued industries, such as engineering and technology.
The 2022 World Inequality Report (WIR) states that, since the 1990s, women have “overtaken men in educational attainment in many countries”, while the UCAS admissions service reported that “in Malaysia, more than 64 percent of university enrollments are female” and “young women are 36 percent more likely to apply to university than their male peers”. Despite these drastic differences in numbers, the proportions of males and females in the workforce do not match and instead directly contrast these statistics. In India alone, men make up approximately 82% of the workforce, while women merely comprise the remaining 18%.
These disproportionate numbers depict how gender inequality remains prevalent despite efforts to lessen gender gaps, in which the higher education of females are overlooked often due to stereotypes. Stereotypes regarding women and their lower capabilities in managing their emotions lead many to prefer the more “level-headed” males, while stereotypes have also formed regarding new mothers. Those who gave birth and return to work are often placed on the “mommy track”, where females are given fewer opportunities, roles, and are limited in their abilities in companies after becoming mothers. Many believe women place fewer priorities on their work after having a child, which leads their male counterparts to get key promotions despite the fact that the female colleagues may be just as qualified as them.
Most women are prohibited from even entering the workforce at all. According to the 2022 WIR, “female labor income share has declined significantly over the period, from 39% in 1991 to a little more than 33% in 2019”, directly opposing efforts to increase female participation in the workforce and promote female financial independence. This lack of financial independence can result in serious implications, especially for those in second and third-world countries. The absence of additional income from girls in the family can lead to forced marriages in an effort to improve economic conditions and well-being. Yet, these marriages are often characterized by abuse, assault, and lies.
With women earning merely a third of all global labor income and with declining female inclusion in the workforce, one could question whether society is moving closer toward an economy characterized by gender equality or moving further away, hidden by the facade of activist movements fighting for the lessening of gender discrimination. Sexism and the maintenance of false – and often exaggerated – stereotypes of women play key roles in influencing discrimination in the labor force. Motivated women who, having attained high education, hope to attain great successes face exclusion from emerging and crucial industries while dealing with wage gaps from males they are just as capable as.