In many parts of the world, women have a much harder time than men. Compared internationally, the situation isn’t as problematic in Germany, but women in many countries are still faring better. Do you know which ones?
Girls aren’t allowed to go to school, they marry young and when they get pregnant, they rarely receive prenatal care. Even in industrialized nations like Germany, women have fewer opportunities for moving up the ladder professionally, they are paid lower wages and political and economic decisions are mostly made by men.
That’s why the United Nations (UN) placed gender equality on the list of Sustainable Development Goals agreed to by member states in 2015 that are to be implemented by 2030. SPIEGEL ONLINE is giving close examination to those goals as part of its “Expedition BeyondTomorrow” series.
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The disparity between the sexes has many facets. Let’s look at some more closely:
What does the future hold for a civil-war-torn country if the next generation hasn’t even learned how to do basic arithmetic and write? In South Sudan, only one out of three children attend primary school. A survey conducted by UNESCO has found that girls there have few opportunities to go to school due, among other reasons, to financial pressure, cultural conventions and early marriages.
A similarly large disparity can be found in several other African countries, including Angola and the Central African Republic. But Afghanistan is frequently mentioned as well: Under Taliban rule, girls were banned from going to school. The UNESCO survey doesn’t include current data for the country, but another UN organization, the children’s fund UNICEF, has made clear that the level of education attainment for Afghan girls is still markedly lower than for boys.
The German electoral law passed in 1918 stated that “all German men and women who have reached the age of 20 by Election Day” can vote. The following year, 18 million women were eligible to vote in the German federal election
In an international context, that was quite early. France introduced female suffrage on a national level in 1944, Switzerland in 1971 and Samoa in 1990. Other countries were a bit faster than the Germans, including Russia (1917), Denmark (1915) and Finland (1906). But New Zealand was especially early, having introduced the right for women to vote in 1893.
But do women also actively help shape policy? Most countries have male-dominated governments. Only 26 of the 175 countries examined by the WomanStats project had a reasonably gender-balanced cabinet. In the legislative branch, women are also underrepresented. That’s why the UN wants to include the proportion of women in legislatures, among other issues, in its evaluation of sustainable development goals.
For years, it was hard to find a woman among Norway’s corporate supervisory boards. Then came the quota: A law in place since 2008 stipulates that the boards of state-owned or publicly traded companies must be comprised of at least 40 percent women. A survey by Credit Suisse Research also confirmed that the gender ratio in Norwegian boardroom is, in fact, almost equal. No other country has a higher proportion of women in its boardrooms.
There are different interpretations of how well or how poorly the quota is working. Some observers claim that the quota has improved the working atmosphere and has also helped to break up male-dominated structures. But in some companies, the hoped-for equalization of the sexes hasn’t taken place, because firms can change their legal entity in ways that allow them to circumvent the law.
A study by the pro-business IZA Institute of Labor Economics concluded that increasing the proportion of women in the boardroom had little effect on other women in the company. In the companies the institute examined, the institute did not find that women had benefited from any significant career or salary improvements.
But precisely these kinds of improvements — that is, below the boardroom level — are decisive for most women. In 54 of the 187 countries examined, the institute determined, fewer than one out of three people working in the fields of management, academia and engineering is a woman. But in 100 countries, the gender gap is relatively equal.
In its sustainable development goals, the UN calls for “women’s physical integrity” to be protected. The aim of that goal is for forced marriage, forced prostitution and the ongoing problem of female genital mutilation to disappear from the world.
Sexual education and access to adequate health care during pregnancy are also to be guaranteed. In many African countries, more than 500 mothers currently die per 100,000 births. In comparison, the maternal mortality rate in most European countries is less than 10.
The road to success, it seems, will remain a very long one.
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