Is Gender Equality Ever Possible?

Today, the majority of countries acknowledge that ensuring gender equality is not just an axiomatically humanistic objective, but is also a purpose that spells profits and economic growth for them. Hence, modern societies identify gender equality as a desirable objective to strive towards. The assumption that gender equality is currently lacking can be affirmed by general observations of the world – female genital mutilation still occurs, and the persistent abuse of women in many countries shows that women are not being given due respect as a form of gender equity. However, recent trends and precedents show that imbalances between the genders are being corrected. Hence, gender equality is plausible and will likely occur, even if it takes an extended time.
The most intuitive reason behind the inequality of the genders is the biological difference between men and women – the inherently greater physical strength men possess has meant that many women have historically been treated as the weaker gender, both literally and figuratively. Hence, they are viewed as the gender with less significance and importance. The biological differences between the genders cannot be resolved, so it is claimed that gender equality can never be achieved. However, the issue of equality between the genders is analogous to the issue of equality between the races – instead of striving to homogenise the human population, we should instead strive for equity in the treatment of differing social groups. Therefore, the objective should be to grant each gender equal agency, and ensure all have equal means to obtain what they deserve as human beings. For all intents and purposes, the muscular advantage men also have means less and less in today’s society. Advancements in technology have largely leveled the capabilities of men and women today, vis-à-vis the military conquests and agricultural economies which men had the clear advantage in. Hence, what both genders today can achieve is largely independent of the physical strength advantage men possess. On this front, gender equality has indeed been achieved.

In ancient civilisations such as the Chinese, Japanese and even the United States, females were seen as the inferior sex. Their cultural roles as homemakers and the primary individual in the household caring for the children have long been entrenched, up until today. Cultural norms dictate that they should be subservient to men, and not enjoy the same rights and liberties as men do – in Saudi Arabia, there is overwhelming social pressure against female drivers, and all females must be accompanied by a male adult whenever they step out of their doors. Hence, it may seem as if this cultural rift between the two genders prevents women from ever being equal to men. However, there has been progress made over the years, demonstrating a trend which heads towards eventual equality between the genders. In the 1960s, women in the USA spent about ten hours on childcare, forty hours on housework and ten hours on paid work weekly, while men spent forty hours on paid work and ten hours on housework and childcare combined. Now, women’s paid hours have tripled, and the time they spend on household chores has halved – comparatively, men’s hours spent on childcare tripled and their involvement in household chores has doubled. This balancing act has been incrementally advanced due to improvements in household technology, such as the advent of the washing machine, dishwasher and the microwave, which liberated women from spending countless hours on household chores. At the same time, these technologies made housework more palatable for men, reducing gender disparity in household involvement. Increasingly, fathers see their significant, unique role in the upbringing of their children, and societies acknowledge this. This can be seen in the growing trend of granting men paternal leave – Norway grants all men non-transferable twelve weeks of paternity leave. These are optimistic trends, as they point towards growing equality with regards to the cultural expectations of each sex.

Skeptics also argue that women often face an unfavourable pay gap as compared to their male counterparts, and are often forced to sacrifice the work-life balance when they have children. Such an occurrence is worrying, because financial independence represents power and capability in our materialistic world. Hence, the numbers suggest an unstable power asymmetry between the genders in our society. Despite this claim, there are reasonable explanations for the imbalance – the discrepancy is due to a lower proportion of women working, leading to lower average income. If the metric was instead a skill-for-skill, hour-for-hour measurement of income, on average women now earn 98 cents for each dollar a man earns. This is huge leap from the past, when working women were frowned upon. Hence, the problem nowadays is no longer a lack of recognition of the female workforce’s contributions, but rather a disproportionate number of women choosing to sacrifice the work-life balance upon having children. In this regard, there is good reason to believe that the situation will improve. Women today enjoy greater liberty over their career and life decisions, by initiating the breaking up of traditional work-hours – from nine to six. Until recently, this rigid schedule employed women had to abide by discriminated against women who played a significant role in raising their children – they were forced to choose between their jobs and the need to bring up their children, and many chose the latter. Since the 1990s, women have been campaigning for more flexible working schedules that revolve around their responsibilities at home, with increasing frequency. Hilary Clinton, the USA’s ex-Secretary of State was insistent on working at home, after she had dinner with her family, and Sheryl Sandberg, current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, goes home for dinner daily at 5.30pm. These successful individuals have begun to break down traditional workdays’ rigidity, so that working adults, male and female alike, no longer have to treat family commitments and working commitments as mutually exclusive options. As a result, both genders have increased capabilities to pursue an even work-life balance, so women no longer have to bear the brunt of childcare, a burden which has typically caused them to sacrifice their financial independence. This in turn would lead to more capable individuals, especially women, who can choose to further their careers and contend with men for the top managerial and executive positions at the workplace. With these highly feasible changes at the workplace, some of which have already been set into motion, it is not difficult to envision a future when gender equality is indeed an achievable aim.

Ultimately, the world has been moving towards the point where the arbitrary occurrence of gender is no longer an obstacle to what any individual can achieve, and will likely continue down this route. The impatient, hastily drawn conclusion that attempts to manage gender equality have not borne any fruit is parochial, as it fails to acknowledge the considerable progress societies have made so far. Admittedly, more needs to be done to bolster the fight against gender inequality, but there is reason to be optimistic that this goal will be achieved eventually. In essence, gender equality is indeed possible.


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.