Introduction to the Challenge
Gender inequality pervades the world. In considering the dimensions of economic gender inequality, women still make less than men in the formal work sector, are more likely to live in poverty, are less likely to participate in the formal work sector, and do a larger share of work in the household sector. The dimensions of political gender inequality include women’s lower representation in elected office and lower representation in political and corporate appointments. Social gender inequality has numerous dimensions, some of which are less favorable to men while others are less favorable to women: men are more prone to violence, imprisonment, and disability, while women are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; in some countries men have lower educational attainment than women, while the pattern is reversed in other countries. Demographic gender inequality includes the fact that men live shorter lives on average than do women (65 years for men, 69 years for women) (CIA 2010), but there is also concern that many women are never given the chance to be born, and in the younger generations men now outnumber women, by large numbers in China and India in particular (with gender ratios respectively of 113 men and 117 men per 100 women in the under-15 age range) (CIA 2010).
While many of the costs of gender inequality are ultimately borne by particular individuals, they can also be calculated at a society or even worldwide level. If individuals of different genders are not given equal opportunity to develop their potential, then societies forgo the increased level of output and ultimately well-being that would derive from their higher productivity. If societies do not invest equally in educating and training men and women, do not give them equal opportunities to engage in more productive forms of work, and do not give them equal opportunities to advance to more productive positions over time, then the societies do not harness the full potential of their members.
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