What Is Gender Equality In The 21st Century?

What is gender equality today, in the 21st century? Unfortunately, in many countries worldwide, the terms feminism and gender equality do not even seem to exist, have been banned from vocabulary, or are at least being hushed by the majority of the population, both women, and men. Even in developed countries where females legislatively have equal rights with males, discrimination is widespread. For many, the word feminism seems to provoke negative feelings, whereby feminist females can be regarded as either lesbians or man-haters.

This is far from true. Those who know the meaning of the word feminism understand that feminism is a term used to describe the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes Merriam-Webster – Feminism | Definition of FEMINISM. Some feminists may, of course, be either bi-sexual or lesbian, but the word feminism should not be confused or mixed with the sexual orientation of anyone. In fact, many men are feminists. This is not an ideology dedicated to females. On the contrary, feminism is an ideology that supports equal rights for genders in general. Regretfully, some have not internalized this.

When I on March 8th, 2015 published “365 Days a Year Dedicated for Women Globally”   on LinkedIn, a post dedicated to girls and women on the International Women´s Day, not everyone who read the post were delighted about it. After publishing “365 Days a Year Dedicated to Women Globally” I received not only angry comments but also angry personal messages on LinkedIn. The topic is so sensitive in countries where the rights of girls and women are being oppressed that even discussing or writing about it awakens hatred in people.

Developed, progressive and democratic countries that are often defined to be gender equal are in fact not gender equal. These countries may have come closer to gender equality, but there is yet not one single country on Earth that can be defined as gender equal. The World Economic Forum, an organization committed to improving the state of the world, has been publishing The Global Gender Gap Report since 2006. The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 was published on November 2nd, 2017, analyzing the gender gaps in 144 countries. According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, “Talent is one of the most essential factors for growth and competitiveness. To build future economies that are both dynamic and inclusive, we must ensure that everyone has equal opportunity”. (WEF. The Global Gender Gap Report 2017).

One of the key findings in The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 was that the average gap worldwide in terms of gender equality is 32% (31,7% in 2016). Furthermore, with the current rate of development, gender gaps could be cut out within one century. According to the report, gender inequality is costly: global GDP (gross domestic product) could see an increase of 5.3 trillion USD within less than a decade by ensuring gender equality in economic participation.

Although the Nordic countries (Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark) have the smallest gender gaps on a global level, even these countries have failed to achieve gender equality. As a result of this, Iceland has as the first country in the world decided to introduce equal pay through legislation, whereby paying one gender less than the other will be illegal. This news has been received for instance in Finland, where I currently live, with differing opinions. Some claim, without sufficient understanding about the causes of unequal pay, that “men in Finland earn more than women because they work overtime while women decide not to”, or, “men earn more than women because of choice of occupation”. This allows us to ask whether it is legitimate that traditionally male-dominated professions pay more than female-dominated professions? Is there some specific reason to pay for instance engineers more than nurses?

The realization of gender inequality in both Sweden and Finland, two of the world´s most gender-equal countries, has led to the emerging of new political parties. In Sweden, Feministiskt initiative was established in 2005 with the purpose of “opposing all forms of discrimination” in Sweden. In Finland, the Feminist Party was registered as recently as on January 1st, 2017, as a result of the realization that feminism has not been achieved in Finland. The Finnish Feminist Party states following on its website: “Conventional political ideologies have not succeeded in solving discrimination, sexism, and racism, which are a known phenomenon in both capitalist and socialist countries.” (Feministinen Puolue – Why a new political party?).

Equality (gender equality) truly is the unfinished business of the 21st century. Abolishing all kinds of discrimination in our societies is a responsibility of everyone, regardless of gender, economic, political, or social status. The best way of ensuring equality is to start living it, and asking ourselves what each one of us can do to contribute to an equal society where all individuals, regardless of any external attributes, can live and thrive without any discrimination.


Anne-Maria Yritys
Anne-Maria Yritys
ANNE-MARIA is a business owner and a sustainable entrepreneur with a purpose of making this world a better place. She holds an MBA in international business management in addition to her many other professional certificates and qualifications. With a background in hospitality management and banking, she now runs her own small (online) business dedicated to helping other businesses and people to survive and to thrive in today's competitive global business landscape. With a many-sided international background, Anne-Maria communicates fluently in several languages. She has a passion for inspiring leadership and authentic, positive communication. She is a Global Citizen with a love for humanity who values ethical leadership and responsible decision-making. She believes that advanced communication, empowerment, knowledge, continuous development and learning contribute to sustainable economic development and a sustainable future in individuals, organizations, and nations across our Globe. Her mission and vision include accelerating positive change through effective change communication and leadership. She Tweets @annemariayritys & @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

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  1. This yanks at the injustice that is so evident across the globe where gender is the fundamental bias still prevalent. Equal rights to me means we all need to be stripped of a gender and placed on the naked scale of humanity. What are we doing to address the opportunity to allow others to live with dignity? We are indeed members of the same species with fundamental physical differences. To be in alignment with equality physically cannot exist with this mindset. We all have a mind to think and that’s the arena of concern… as your final statement suggests…
    “ Equality (gender equality) truly is the unfinished business of the 21st century. Abolishing all kinds of discrimination in our societies is a responsibility of everyone, regardless of gender, economic, political, or social status. The best way of ensuring equality is to start living it, and asking ourselves what each one of us can do to contribute to an equal society where all individuals, regardless of any external attributes, can live and thrive without any discrimination.”
    I agree we all have a part to play and it starts with knowing exactly what we a talking about.
    Well written and justified article here Anne-Marie Yritys!
    Thank you so much for shedding some light!

    • Dear Paula, thank you for your well thought-out response. Indeed, gender ought not be a determining factor in terms of equal rights in societies, be it female, male or something in-between. Some societies do even legally recognize a third gender. If females, who represent roughly 50% of world population today, lack equal opportunities in many societies, what is the human rights situation for many minorities worldwide? A lack of tolerance and understanding together with a need for supremacy are factors hindering the development of equal societies.

    • Hello Paula, the previous comment (anonymous) was posted by Anne-Maria Yritys. For some reason, my login failed while I was posting the comment. Thank you again for your engagement.

  2. Feminism isn’t just a term. It is a group that supports girls everywhere no matter how they identify themselves. Recently in India , four men gang raped a women and were so close to getting away with it? Why r women so judged? We r string to and it isn’t about being stronger than men , it is being equal to men. Because all ppl r equal

    • Anonymous, thank you for your comment. Feminism is a broad term referring to the equality among all human beings, regardless of background or gender. It refers to the political, social and economic equality among people in general, although we often think about feminism concerning the equality in-between the sexes. There are many factors affecting and even hindering the progress towards equality, including culture, legislation and tradition. Violence can never be justified or righteous, nor should it be tolerated in any culture or in any country.

  3. There are also studies that show that women surveyed are less happy and less satisfied with their lives today than in previous years and generations — and the trend of this dissatisfaction is increasing. Some assert that this may be driven by the belief that a woman must seek out “gender equality”. Some women believe they must strive for equality even though that may not be what they really want to do. Equality meaning getting a well paying job a man would have and meaning not having kids. But is this really equality? Consider what equality really means. Does it really mean women should work in the same STEM fields as men, even though that kind of work doesn’t appeal to a majority of women? Does it mean women should have the same opportunities as men because of their gender and not because of their qualifications?

    I am skeptical of any gender gap that is reported in studies when it is for western nations. Every study of this nature I looked at was based on very fuzzy math and assertions, not facts. And quite often one fuzzy study cites another fuzzy study. And when a fuzzy study does this, both fuzzy studies become credible even when neither of them are.

    • Thank you for reading and for commenting. That is your opinion and perspective on the topic. If things have been in X way for an amount of years, it definitely does not mean that things do have to stay that way for another indefinite number of years. An important question is of course also, why girls and women are being discriminated through legislation in many countries, and why is there an assumption that women would not want the same rights as men do have? And, why should traditionally male-dominated professions/roles pay more than female-dominated roles? This is not as simple a question as to say that “women want things to remain the same” just because many men want to see things from a male perspective.

    • I agree there are really terrible things that are happening in non-western nations. Some of the things include:

      1. People are treated as animals. A wooden stake is placed in the mouth or on the skull and then hammered fracturing the head in half.

      2. People are tortured, beaten and abused and are still following the law because of their status in that country.

      3. Children are sold as property and sex slaves because their parents fell into debt and use it as a quick way to come out of it.

      This is what the world is. It’s a bad and nasty place. What I don’t like about “gender inequality” or “gender gap” is that these terrible things are then re-framed as being women and girls issues and not people issues. There are terrible human right violations going on and segmenting these terrible things as being solely on gender prevents the real problem from being solved. In non western countries I don’t see it as gender gaps, I see it as human rights violations that are just plain wrong.

      And that’s the question. What does gender gap mean. To solve a gender gap, the gap must be defined to close it. In western nations, their are laws that unbiases one’s gender from the law. Every western nation has their flavour of it in their constitutions and human rights charters; and there are fairness acts on treatment and the fairness of wages being paid. Based on this and the statistics I’ve examined, the biggest problem I see with gender gaps here in western countries is the question if it even exists in western countries. There are inequalities in western countries and despite the best social engineering interventions, there will always be inequalities. The problem is that people mix up the inequalities caused from social status, personality, attractiveness, and work ethic as being racial or gender inequalities and not a personal competitive advantage each person has over an other. And because the focus is on racial or gender inequality, data and information is cherry picked, taken out of context and displayed in reports and studies to prove the gender inequality narrative.

      For western countries, I can only speak in deep detail about Canada and the USA. Here, there is no evidence of an inequality that is from gender. The famous wage gap study doesn’t take into consideration occupation or industry pay scales or the amount of hours worked. Take those into consideration and gap is so narrow that you can’t distinguish the gap from statistical error. In terms of laws, there isn’t any gender bias specified. But, culture norms result in a bias in the favour for women in rulings and leniency in sentencing.

      Feminism has a history and played a very crucial rule in developing western society. Some of that history of promoting female same-sex pair bonding and being able to cast magical spells are comical and should not be forgotten. It is part of the history after all. The question is do we still need feminism in a western society. Feminism evolved from first wave, to second, to third, and now it’s intersectional — and despite best efforts there is no well known agreement on what that really means.

      Ending on this note. Here in Canada a while back, a man beat his wife with a hockey stick. He went to jail. What disturbed me about this story is that the community the husband and wife lived in had no problem with the husband beating his wife. He beat her according to their religious laws. Well, those laws aren’t Canada’s laws and he’s now serving time. Here’s the kicker. What disturbed me even more is that Canadian women who advocate they are strong feminists ignored this situation and pretended it didn’t happen. Anyone who tried to raise the discussion was immediately de-platformed and shut down by these Canadian feminist groups.

      This suggests another serious problem. And I’ve wrote way too much already.

    • The necessity to conduct research upon gender equality already proves that there are (huge) gaps between genders, whereby girls and women are being discriminated in most countries worldwide. The Gender Gap Report is being published by The World Economic Forum, which conducts this research in cooperation with a number of other organizations worldwide. It is rather questionable to trust one´s personal judgment better than a research conducted by hundreds of experts in serious questions that affect millions of people worldwide. And no, these things have not been turned into something that is affecting only girls and women – men can fall victims of discrimination as well. However, in most of the cases and as the Gender Gap Report reveals, girls and women are being discriminated. If the world was gender equal, these kinds of reports might be unnecessary, but definitely not in times when girls and women are being discriminated.

    • Based what your said in your last two posts, I’m assuming data analysis and evidence based research are not in your wheel house. Here’s a quick primer.

      1. Research, data analysis, and data collection are different activities. I feel you’re calling it all the same thing.

      2. Just because a certain interpretation of the data is popular doesn’t make it the correct interpretation.

      3. The sources of data can be correct and credible, but that credibility doesn’t transfer to the analysis or interpretation of that data. The interpretation must be assessed on its own merits.

      Now, let’s assess the credibility of the Gender Gap Report. I included links to both the explorable report and the PDF version.

      [Criterion 1]. Does the report cite it’s sources? No. Data sources are not cited. Only references regarding ideologies are mentioned, not data sources. You don’t know where the data is coming from. Data about countries are usually collected in those countries. Canada has their Statistics Canada — other countries have a counterpart. Data in these countries used by the World Economic Forum are collected, not analyzed, not researched. The World Economic Forum gives out a template to these countries so they can contribute their data. The data is put into the template and sent out to the World Economic Forum. So the World Economic Forum is collecting the data.

      “The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 (herein: “Report”) presents information and data that were compiled and/or collected by the World Economic Forum (all information and data referred herein as “Data”). Data in this Report is subject to change without notice.”
      page 4

      Note that the World Economic Forum doesn’t mention research or data analysis. If they did it, they would state it.

      [Criterion 2] Does the report specify the problem. No, it is stating an assumption which may or may not be correct.
      “Gender parity is fundamental to whether and how economies and societies thrive. Ensuring the full development and appropriate deployment of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.”

      “The world is being deprived of a huge untapped resource. So says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, at the launch of its Global Gender Gap Report 2017.”

      When specifying a problem, you need to present the historic data to demonstrate a trend that there was a cost or harm. No such analysis has been provided. So no, problem was defined. Only an assumption was given of how things should be.

      [Criterion 3]. Does the report specify an approach. No. It states which data was collected and the statistical deviations. It also states an overarching mindset.
      “The Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.”

      But, there is no mention of how these two things tie together. There is no methodology / approach. There is this though.
      “4. Calculate final scores
      For of all subindexes, the highest possible score is 1
      (parity) and the lowest possible score is 0 (imparity),
      thus binding the scores between inequality and equality
      page 7

      [Criterion 4]. Is the right data being used the right way? No. Let’s look at Canada’s profile as a reference.

      The data has been cherry picked. Only certain data was collected. No data was collected to help determine context. Example: someone is not working. Is it because they are married with a child? Should a married person’s choice lead to a gender gap? Based on this report, it does.

      The other thing I see is values that are over 1.0. My impression is that to insure that the gender parity is always 1.0 or below these over 1.0 data points will not be used in the analysis. This means certain industries, occupations, and other areas of the economy are excluded from the analysis.

      I feel the gender gap report is a good show piece if you want to discuss social justice and the appropriate rhetoric to get people excited — especially those in non-western nations where there really are gaps in social class, gender, and human life. But, I would never in good conscious use this report to drive policy for governments or businesses in western nations. It failed the credibility test. This report is not credible. On top of that, I’m concerned with the ideological motivations behind this report.

      1. It is called the Gender Gap. “Gaps” suggest they need to be closed, yet no real problem is given. What is given are ideology related sources.

      2. The Gender Gap report is reporting data but makes no mention of how it collected that data nor how data is specifically used and weighed.

      3. There are no assumptions beside an assumption passing off to be a problem. This report has a lot of information, but not any real substance.

      4. I have way too many questions about how the data was used in this report. When I tried doing the calculations for gender parity for Canada, they were way off from what the report said they were.

      Are there problems in the world? Yes. Is there inequality? Yes. Do things need to change? Yes. Would I suggest using this report to drive change. Yes, if it is for a non-western nations that need to change because a soft drink is worth more than a human life.

      Is there discrimination in your country against women and girls? Look at your country’s statistics in their interactive forms. Play around with your country’s data. When I did for a few western countries (Canada, USA, Britain) the “gender gap” was being contributed by women choosing things that made them happy, and not things that made them rich. (Men are the same way by the way.)

      From what I take away from this report, gender gaps exist in western nations because women are making the wrong choices according to what the Gender Gap Report is saying is the right choice. Women should focus on being rich so the economy will grow. Women should hold high political office — just because. Remember, this report was produced by the World Economic Forum. Look at their mission statement on their website. Also look at the authors of this report and their credentials.

      I do not believe a gender gap exists in a western nation when such a gap is solely contributed by people exercising their freedom to choose. And despite what the Gender Gap report implies I believe women dominated industries are just as important as any other industry despite what the difference in pay scales are. A pay scale does not determine what the value of an industry is to the health of an economy.

    • With your subjectively perceived expertise on the topic, why do not come up with your own study, including hard facts? Or, write an article about it since you seem so passionate about debating back and forth? Prove the world and The World Economic Forum that you know they are wrong and you are right in your personal glory. Since you seem to be capable of proving that the world, especially the West, is gender equal. Thank you.

    • I do apologize for you feeling this way. It’s fine you don’t understand data analysis approaches or how they can be abused to sway the masses. It’s fine that that you don’t know how to do evidence based research. That’s okay too. And if you can’t follow what I previously posted, I have no problem diving into the details if you want. Any one that knows data analysis and evidence based research will come to the same conclusion. The problem is that people want reports to tell them what they want to hear and not what they what they need to know. So why would I invest time in such an endeavor? The analysis has already been done in Canada, the USA and Britain. A quick Youtube search will get you many studies and sources.

      You last post was is along the same subtext as all posts for this conversation.Several times you said what I was saying is an opinion… In your last post the word used was “subjective”. You are projecting — like the pot calling the kettle black projecting. Here are the facts… and yes, they are facts.

      1. You never provided a list of any of these reports you mentioned are out there nor evidence to support your position except for this gender gap report. I feel if you had other sources on hand you would have provided them, You’re making an assertion that there is gender gap because there is a gender gap. This is circular logic.

      2. The criteria used to tend the credibility of the Gender Gap Report is the most basic test. This test is pretty wide used. The fact that the gender gap report failed this basic test makes me question its credibility and the expertise of the data analyst.

      3. You never challenged any of the analysis I provided to you about the gender gap report. I feel if you could have, you would have.

      4. The data analyst that prepared the report has a background in cultural anthropology, not economics, not rocket science — cultural anthropology. That field doesn’t focus on evidence based research. I feel this explains a lot about how the gender gap report was prepared.

      I enjoyed this conversation. And it was perfect timing. Next week I’m preparing modules for a business course offered here in Canada. One module in particular is about testing the credibility of data and the credibility of the analysis of that data. The themes of this conversation are definitely going to take at least one page of content for this course. And that’s awesome.

      Thank you for posting and sharing your viewpoint. Your timing was stellar! 🙂

    • In fact I am not feeling anything. I rely upon data, and sources (in addition to my personal experiences). I write facts, not fiction.

    • In the world of data based research, there is too much fiction presented in lieu of facts. The problem is bias. When you leverage your own personal experiences without the proper objective testing of those personal experiences, you will allow your subjectivity to reshape the data. So as the golden rule, you never let your personal experience taint the data. Never. Also, it’s very important to know how you feel about data and the subject area for that data. When influencing people with data, you’re the most ethical when you state a fact, state your opinion/feelings, then state your conclusion. These help you in two ways. One, when you can articulate your feelings and emotions, you articulate your bias allowing you to test that bias and be more objective with your analysis. Two, by articulating your feelings to others, people will better understand your bias and how to interpret the data with and without your bias.

      On a final note, you are limiting your data analysis when you write facts and not fiction. This is because data is made up of both facts and fiction. Data can be facts, what people interpret as facts, what people believe, and what people can remember / recall. No matter what kind of data you’re analyzing, the process for analyzing facts is the same for fiction. Both needed to be tested objectively and rigorously.

      To be a strong data analyst you must not let your personal experiences taint the data. You must always be in touch with your emotions and always test both fact and fiction — including the facts, values, and beliefs you, yourself hold dear.

  4. My “personal” feeling is that men today are under stress for the intersection of the social and economic changes and many of them are struggling to give up or take on increased responsibilities, that come with being employers, fathers, husbands. Women face this kind of stress from a long time. And they are gaining more and more space in a society that is, after all, still uncomfortable in front of their ambition and aggression. I think of those few countries who haven’t adequate facilities to meet the women, not only in the care of children. I notice how much more difficult it is for them to negotiate wage conditions of entry into the labor market and to then recognize their needs in the workplace. Well, I believe that such an inner strength, once freed from prejudices and constraints of various kinds, if accompanied by adequate skills (as always seems to happen more), should bring something more than a world in which men and women are equal and complementary!!!!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and to reflect upon gender equality in the 21st century. Societies are indeed different, and changing old traditions and roles cannot be achieved in one night. If genders are to be equal, women must also be prepared to take responsibility. In terms of legislation it would be fair to give everyone equal human rights regardless of socio-economic background or gender.