Gender parity still a challenge in education and employment

15Mar 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Gender parity still a challenge in education and employment

Last week people across the globe celebrated International Women’s day by engaging in various social activities including meetings, providing support to the needy, campaigns and many other forms of celebrating the day.

Achieving gender equality in education will not only promote equality in employment but also postpone early-marriages, reduce infant mortality rates and improve health and education.

Despite the critical progress in bridging gender gaps, persistent inequalities remain inmany regions and at different levels of education.

The gender parity index shows that only East Asia and the Pacific has reached or is close to gender parity in all levels of education.

Almost all other regions are closer to gender parity at the primary level than at any other level of education, except for the Arab States where tertiary education is closest to a position of parity. The majority of countries fell short of achieving the first step towards the gender goal.

The OECD Report on the ‘Gender Initiative: Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship’ argues that investing in formal education is essential to promote equality of employment opportunities and strengthen economic growth.

It increases cognitive and non-cognitive skills, it improves productivity and it provides individuals with a greater ability to further develop their knowledge and skills throughout their lives.

Increased education participation is also associated with better health, and more investments in the education and health of children – especially among women and particularly in developing countries.

Gender equality in terms of participation in, and attainment of, education has been achieved in most OECD countries: girls have on average better grades and often outnumber boys among new college graduates.

However, in many developing countries, girls still have poorer educational attainments, especially at the secondary and tertiary levels.

Achieving gender equality in education in these countries will not only promote greater equality in employment outcomes but also help postpone early-marriages,reduce infant mortality rates and improve health and education of future generations.

Gaps in cognitive skills of boys and girls around age 15 are similar across countries: boys perform better than girls in mathematics in most countries, and girls outperform boys in reading in all countries. In terms of science literacy, there are no significant gender differences.

But young women are much less likely than young men to choose Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) as field of study at graduate level; the share of women in these fields further declines at the post-graduate level.

In the past few decades, women have been entering the labour force in greater numbers and have been staying employed longer over their life course.

Increased educational attainment rates amongst women have contributed to greater employment rates, better earnings and career progression in many OECD and non-OECD countries.

Nowadays, in OECD countries new female entrants in the labour market have comparable and often higher education than their male counterparts.

Yet, compared to men, they are less likely to work for pay, more likely to be employed in lower-paid occupation and sectors, and more likely to have temporary employment contracts.

Compared to men,employed women also work fewer hours, are less likely to progress in their careers and are underrepresented in decision-making positions.

As a result of these factors – and in some cases due to discrimination, which however is rarely directly observable or measurable - women are paid 16 percent less than men, on average across the OECD.

Furthermore, wage gaps are often larger at the higher end of the wage distribution, reflecting the so-called glass ceiling which blocks female career progression and consequently leads to loss of talent.

Policy needs to tackle the reasons for pay gaps and glass ceilings; one approach that is being discussed, especially in Europe where women hold 12 percent of board seats on average, is to impose quotas on the number of women on company boards.

According to a report on ‘Gender and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa’ written by Sanna Ojalammi Ruralia Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland observes that Women are a cornerstone of African economic development.

Approximately one-third of all rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa are headed by women. Women provide circa 70 per cent of agricultural labour and they produce circa 90 per cent of all food.

Thus, women’s economic rate ranks highest in the world, compared to other regions, with the value of 61.9. However women employ mostly theinformal sector or they occupy low-skill work.

Many studies have shown that women in Sub-Saharan Africa are more disadvantages than in any other region in the world.

Research findings also from i.e. North Africa have also revealed that an African continent entails set of obstacles that preventwomen from enjoying the full range of political, civil, economic, and legal rights, although some positive development trends have been seen happening during recent years.

Poverty rate and low per capita GDP have also a profound impact on women’s lives in Africa. This will affect women’s lives by making for women reduced chances of getting good education and/or achieve higher-education; lower education level means also higher illiteracy among women than men in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Generally it is known that general literacy is an important determinant of health.

Africa has the literacy rate with wide disparities. For example, South Africa and Zimbabwe have a literacy rate close to 80%, while in some of the poorest countries, such as in Niger and BurkinaFaso from West Africa, only 10% of women can read and write.

In Sub-Saharan Africa the situation of women in domains such as i.e. education and health disparities are still persisting and gaps are widening particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ensuring women’s economic empowerment and access to control over resources will also have an impact of risen human development issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.

International human rights instruments make some obligations to ensure that African women and men enjoy both the same rights (de jure and de facto rights).

Such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant of Civic and Political Rights.

Some of the Sub-Saharan African countries have their own national gender policies to promote gender equality. Countries such as i.e. Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa have their national gender policies.

Kenya has also proposed Equality Bill, year 2000, which would recognize equal pay for equal work and antidiscrimination requirements.

Furthermore in all Sub- Saharan African countries gender-responsive budget initiatives can be instrumental in promoting change in budget policies and thus have a positive impact on gender equality in many African countries.

Studies done by the IMF and World Bank, among others, suggest that countries, like in Sub-Saharan Africa, should implement economic and social policies that address and rectify gender inequality because reduced gender inequality leads to over all higher rates of economic growth.

Conclusion
Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.

Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

Globally, with individuals pledging to move from talk to purposeful action - and with men and women joining forces - we can collectively help women advance equal to their numbers and realize the limitless potential they offer economies the world over. We have urgent work to do. Are you ready to accelerate gender parity?
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The writer is a specialist in educational planning, policy, economics and finance. He is reached through: [email protected] or +255754304181