What is gender equality?
Gender equality means that men and women have equal rights, obligations, opportunities and responsibilities in all areas of society.
The opposite of gender equality is gender inequality, not gender difference. Gender differences must not lead to inequality in the social position or treatment of men and women. The goal is not to make men and women the same, but instead to recognise everyone’s differences, to provide equal social benefits and to expect equal performance of obligations.
Gender equality means that men and women have equal rights and opportunities in all areas of life. The work, aspirations, desires and needs of both men and women must be valued equally. A person’s gender must not limit their ability to shape their life and have a say in societal issues.
Gender equality is reflected, among other things, in the following:
- the balanced participation of men and women in decision-making at both national and local level;
- the equal use of men’s and women’s knowledge and skills for the development of society;
- the equal economic independence of men and women;
- the equal status of men and women in the labour market;
- the equal opportunities of men and women for good physical and mental health;
- the equal opportunities of men and women to balance work, family and private life;
- the equal access of men and women to resources (including time, information and networks) etc.
Gender equality in a broader sense means a society where all people are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices that are not limited by traditional gender roles, gender stereotypes or hierarchical power relations between men and women.
In a more narrow sense, gender equality refers to a field of politics that deals with the balance between the power relations of the two largest social groups in society, ie men and women. Although the conditions established by law seem to be the same for everyone, the reality is that men’s and women’s social obligations, opportunities, responsibilities and rights are unequally distributed.
Societal norms, prevalent gender stereotypes and ingrained perceptions of gender roles may lead to unequal treatment in employment, education and elsewhere, and limit men’s and women’s educational and employment choices and personal development, thus representing a major obstacle to achieving gender equality.
Gender inequality in education and the labour market, such as gender-based and vertical gender segregation and the pay gap, are not the result of the different biological abilities of men and women, but of traditional perceptions of appropriate behaviours and occupations of men and women and gender-stereotypical expectations of their roles.
Statistics describing the situation and status of men and women, as well as gender-sensitive indicators and indices are used in order to describe the level of development or the current situation of gender equality.
Gender equality is both a principle to follow and a goal to pursue.