How can we tackle gender inequality in the economy?

We’ve come a long way with addressing gender inequalities in the economy, but gender remains a huge factor in determining what your role in the economy can and will be. From the assumption that men do science and women do humanities, to men bringing in money and women caring for family, certain stereotypical divisions are far from changing.

Several methods have been tried and tested to create more gender-neutral economies. One gender-related issue often in the news is the pay gap – the fact that women are currently paid on average less than men in basically every country. Part of this is caused by differences in salaries for men and women, so policies like equal pay legislation which hold employers to account would be one way to tackle the problem.

An important contributing factor to the pay gap is the fact that because employers assume women will leave to care for children, they are less likely to promote them to higher paid positions. Parental leave for both genders, where men and women share the responsibility of looking after children, is one way to tackle this assumption. In most countries (though not all), mothers have already won the right to take maternal leave - paid time off work without the threat of losing their job. But because the maternity model reinforces the idea that women should stay at home and look after children, some countries have introduced shared parental leave in order to tackle this and encourage more participation from men. Over long periods of time, these policies seem to have an effect, encouraging more men to take a greater share of the childcare and housework.¹

Subsidising or providing free childcare after parental leave is an equally important step to allow women to return to work without incurring huge and often unaffordable private costs. Free, professionalised childcare also has other social and economic benefits, as good childcare has been shown to help tackle physical and mental health problems, unemployment, criminal behavior and poor learning later in a child’s life.²

These are just a few of the ways an economy could be made more gender-neutral; a shorter working week³, state funding to diversify gender balance⁴, and positive action recruitment processes are a few more. As with most structural economic changes, whether or not these changes happen is more of a question of culture, power, and politics than anything else.