• en
February 15, 2021

Goal 5: towards a still distant gender equality The impact of gender stereotypes on the professional world

L’impatto degli stereotipi di genere sul mondo del lavoro

Uguaglianza di genere: lontani dall’obiettivo 5

Gender equality and women self-determination, this is the heading of Goal 5 of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that is the action program for people, planet and sustainability by
the UN in 2015.
The purpose is ambitious: to equal opportunities women and men in the economic development- and, in general, equals rights at all levels of engagement – and to erase every form of violence against women. An even more ambitious achievement if set in the current emergency scenario. Covid has in fact opened our eyes on a still dramatic picture: not only are we far from gender equality, but the existing  gap has indeed widened. The World Economic Forum shows  emblematic figures in this sense: 70% of the worldwide medical force is made by women, yet only 25 % of them played a leading role in this health emergency.
In the last year the pandemic has eroded the progress made, thus bringing to light the limits of the economic and social systems.

Gender inequality is one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development

Un crollo quasi esclusivamente femminile

Istat figures on Italian occupation for the month of December 2020 have raised quite an argument. The decline looks alarming: 101 thousand new unemployed in only one month. The gender data make the picture even more dreadful: the decline is nearly exclusively female, with 99 thousand unemployed or inactive women. This trend can be extended to the entire 2020: of the 444 thousand less employees over the entire year 2020, 70%  is exclusively  women.
The health emergency is broadening those inequalities that already characterized the social structure of Italy

Most of the companies’ wealth is in the hands of men

Also at a global level, the overall picture doesn’t change: the occupational decline is  mainly a female question. This Is what emerges from the analysis of Un Women – the United Nations entity for gender equality and women empowerment- and the international financial  corporation Ifc, which have collected a set of interesting figures in their report “Bridging the gap: emerging and innovative private sector responses to support gender equality during covid-19”.
Two data  above all: 98% of the people who have lost their job  are women, and 47 million  are at  risk of falling under the poverty line  because of the pandemic.

Gender gap come riflesso culturale

The occupational decline is a purely female question:  what are the reasons for that?
A first answer concerns the type of job: women are involved in the sectors that are most suffering from the economic crisis, such as  household care and services.
The sharing of jobs related to services, social employment and assistance to kids and the elderly is definitely unequal, and they are mostly carried out by women.. In general, the job positions occupied by women are 1,8 times more vulnerable to the crisis than those occupied by their male counterpart. The second answer is strictly related to the first one, and concerns the social role of women: gender stereotypes continue to have a great impact on the professional world. In this sense, some polls reported by the Eurobarometer (a series of studies on public opinion carried out by the European commission) make us think: for example, in Eastern Europe at least two-thirds of the adult population believe that the main role of women in the society is  to take care  of their homes and families . It’s not  hard to understand how women trying to combine work and private life  are more prone to part-time  jobs,  a very common thing in the Netherlands with  a 75,8% according to ISTAT data.

Equal pay between genders is estimated to be achieved within 55 years

The stereotyped vision of women has negative effects such as their segregation in low-paid sectors, in lower positions and with  lower wages than men. The gender pay gap – that is the difference between the average male and female salary – sadly remains  a present phenomenon  in our country, too.
According to the World Economic Forum, between 2019 and 2020 the gender pay  gap  widened, reaching the  11,1%. This means that women workers earn about 3 thousand euro gross per year less than   their male colleagues. This figure puts Italyin  eighteenth place among the European countries with greater gender equality, with an estimate 55 years to reach  equality in  salaries.

Ridurre le disuguaglianze

Beyond its ethical implications, gender  inequality  represents an obstacle to the economic development. Just think that- according to the calculations of the Bank of Italy- if all the currently unoccupied women worked, our country’s GDP would grow at least  by 7%. A redistribution of women’s employment would be sufficient to increase Italy’s average productivity. Also, according to economics  management experts, promoting diversity and inclusion would have additional benefits, ranging from getting better business results, to  increased turnover and   a better reputation at a community level.
Curbing inequalities is a key element to promote a sustainable economic development.
 So, what can we do for this? It’s not easy to  face such a complex phenomenon, however there are some fundamental points  that we can take action on:

–    Access to financial services. Equality must be guaranteed: for example, in many countries women don’t have the same inheritance rights as men, and in case of their partners’ death they are at risk of losing  all their shared belongings.

–    Access to digital services. The digital gap between men and women is still high in many States of the world, reaching record figures in South Asia.

–    Prevention of gender-based violence. During the lockdown due to the health emergency, the number of cases of domestic violence has grown exponentially. It is necessary to adopt protection measures against any type of violence and discrimination.

–    Development of tailor-made work policies. Working mothers tend to absorb the majority of all care responsibilities; therefore, flexible working arrangements and family-support services need to be  made available.

The gender gap is also a question of access to resources

The digitalization  imposed by the global emergency has definitely helped to break down the barriers between the physical and digital world, to build a new kind of experience. Beyond the need for an increasingly strong technological boost, the approach itself to this matter  makes the difference. Screens have limitless potential, as they  are windows on multiple worlds. Screens  can carry us anywhere  any time,  at a simple click.
The problem compared to what is immediately available is that the event itself is no longer something exceptional, no longer memorable . We must act on the empathetic factor: feeling connected to one situation, experimenting something unique with other people at the same time. How can we create valuable collective moments exploiting the digital power, and  at the same time acting on the physic limitation imposed by a screen? By Extending our vision and connecting two worlds: the digital and the physical one are not two different environments; they can be combined  to create a new extension of reality.                                       

Other articles

Social impact, technology, economy. Problems of the present day and solutions for the future. Our magazine delves into the most advanced frontiers of innovation.