What is gender inequality?

What is gender inequality?

Gender equality refers to all women and men having equal opportunities.


24 November 2014

Gender equality refers to all women and men having equal opportunities.

When policies, politicians, researchers and activists refer to gender equality, they are not suggesting that everybody is or should be equal, but that everybody should have equal opportunities. Formal structures are a basic pillar to create opportunities, groups, identities and dynamics; they sustain the way in which people and groups relate to each other. Of course, there are other factors that can underpin or go against the multiple gender dynamics and modify them. However, informal interactions and individual views and reactions are or may be more subtle, varied and less directly approachable than public policies and their design, implementation, evaluation, and improvement.

As social researchers, evaluators, and consultants, the Tavistock Institute team is aware of many differences among individuals and organisations, and we applaud and support diversity. That’s one of the reasons why we care about gender equality. Links to some the Tavistock Institute’s recent projects concerning gender equality can be found at the end of this article.

Equal opportunities allow people to flourish and chose better ways of doing, being and experimenting with their lives. There are many different women and men in very diverse contexts and situations, with various expectations, behaviours, and outcomes; in this varied background, we have analysed, evaluated and reflected on why similar gender dynamics happen across the world, in general, and in Europe, in particular. Findings show that men tend to do less care work than women in each country. Men and women share care work to a different extent depending on the public policies and the contexts in which they live. Power in the public sphere is held to a lager extent by certain groups of men compared to women with similar characteristics and contexts, thus impacting how men and women share public and private spheres. Women tend to be lower paid than men. Feelings and emotional bonds are more likely acknowledged by women. Physical appearance tends to be more scrutinised when women are involved. And so on. All these trends seem to be part of the system in which we live. However, new trends and dynamics are also visible, for example: young fathers more actively taking care of their babies, mothers being the main breadwinners even when fathers are around and work-life balance policies being used by men..

What is happening? We live in a complex system. If one part of the system changes, then everything or some part of the system has to change in some way, in order to readapt towards a new equilibrium. However, which changes come first and which ones can create further effects is something useful to think about. How stable and desirable that equilibrium is also becomes a subject for reflection. Politicians and law look for gender equality as a social justice and economic goal. How fast do we want to move towards a gender equality objective declared as a common society goal? The variable of sex interacts with other variables such as race, age, nationality or social class. Gender is a social variable even more complex than sex. Intersectionality explicitly recognised how all these variables interact and create and recreate different social norms, identities, expectations and real opportunities. However, despite varieties, there is a common dynamic which makes gender a relevant social category. Thus, as a key social category, we are determined to research, experiment and evaluate current gender inequality. We are ready to act on it through action research, dissemination, training and networking.


Tavistock Institute projects concerning gender equality: 

For more information on this article please contact: TIHR Senior Researcher / Consultant, Cristina Castellanos Serrano.

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