13 Gender Inequality Examples That Show How Women Still Aren’t Equal to Men
Why it's better than ever to be a woman—except for these imbalance issues the world still needs to work on
Gender inequality examples that show it’s a man’s world
Women’s rights have come a long way; there was a time when women couldn’t vote, own property or serve in the military. Imagine that! Since then, there have been countless impressive female firsts added to history books, and women have taken control of their own destinies, from opening their own businesses to spearheading powerful movements. But even though in the eyes of the law women and men are equal, there are still some glaring gender inequality examples that show equality just doesn’t play out like it should.
Women earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn
Kicking off this list of gender inequality examples: the gender pay gap. The pay gap between men and women has long been discussed and has been a sad fact of life ever since women entered the workforce. The bad news? We’re still dealing with it: The most recent data shows that women typically earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn. That means women would have to work far into the next year to earn what the average man earned the previous year.
It’s worse for BIPOC women: Black women earn 70 cents for every dollar non-Hispanic White men earn; for Latinas, it’s 65 cents. There is some good news, however. Among younger workers, ages 25 to 34, the gap is significantly smaller, with women earning 92% of what men do. It’s not equal yet, but it’s progress!
Viagra isn’t taxed, but tampons are
The items considered a medical necessity—and therefore tax-exempt—aren’t as clear cut as one might hope. But here’s what’s abundantly clear: Medications and supplies specifically for men often make the list, while things many women consider essential don’t. “That women still have to fight for birth control coverage on insurance while men often have access to erectile dysfunction medication is an outrage,” says Kristin Anderson, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown and author of Modern Misogyny.
Several states have enacted legislation to end the so-called “Pink Tax” on tampons and sanitary pads. And there was actually a federal bill introduced to Congress in June 2021 called the Pink Tax Repeal Act, which aims to tackle the issue of women’s products and services being charged more than men’s—even if the products and services are the same. There hasn’t been a vote on that bill as of this writing. Take a moment to reflect and read up on the things women weren’t allowed to do 100-plus years ago.
Just 28% of members of Congress are women
While 50.5% of Americans are women, women make up just 28% of our government representatives in Congress, with 25 women currently serving as Senators. And while 28% is the highest percentage of women in Congress the U.S. has ever seen, it’s still a smaller percentage compared with the overall population of women. So, why is that?
“I think it comes down to two things: a lack of modeling, and stereotypes about what women should be,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect. Women are often seen as being too soft or sensitive to be in the tough world of politics, but the more women see other women killing it in politics, the more they’ll be inspired to step into leadership roles themselves, she explains.
Men are more likely to receive higher salaries and raises than women in the same positions
One reason for the gender pay gap may be the difference in willingness to ask for more money. For instance, one Harvard study found that men were more likely to negotiate their pay than women when applying for jobs that didn’t specifically state wages were negotiable. However, if it was made clear that wages were negotiable, both men and women were equally likely to negotiate. Women were also more likely to apply for, and accept, lower-paying jobs than men with the same skill level.
“Many women are taught that they will be given what they deserve, and if they just do their best then their boss will notice their hard work and reward them with a raise,” Lombardo says. “Men? They just ask for it.” This would be a good time to take a page from the men’s playbook, she says. “Don’t let someone else define what you deserve. Do your research, decide for yourself what you are worth and ask for what you want,” she says.
Women are less likely to get promoted than men
Thanks to family obligations, a woman’s career arc often looks very different than a man’s, and one of the primary ways this shows up is in promotions. According to a study done by LeanIn and McKinsey & Co., for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted.
One problem is that women won’t apply for a promotion unless they feel they meet 100% of the qualifications, while men will apply even if they only partly qualify, Lombardo says. Another possible reason is that men are seen as more assertive and aggressive in pursuing career opportunities, while the same behavior in women is seen as “uncompromising,” she adds. Then there’s the work-life balance issue. According to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, 48% of working women feel the pressure to focus on their home responsibilities, compared with just 35% of working men.
Just one in four C-suite leaders are women
The gender gap in leadership increases as the positions do, according to the LeanIn study. The gender gap skyrockets at the C-suite level, with only one in four C-suite leaders being women, and only one in 20 being women of color.
And while 2023 ushered in the highest share of female leaders in Fortune 500 companies (10.6%), it still only tallies up to 53 female CEOs. “This is the perfect example of the ‘old boys club’ mentality; men are more likely to promote other men,” Lombardo says. It doesn’t have to stay this way, however. One way to start changing this is by using your voice, she says. “Corporate women are often afraid to speak up because they’re afraid to be wrong,” she explains. “It’s OK to be wrong. Failing doesn’t make you a failure.” Don’t forget to brush up on these phrases women should remove from their vocabulary.
Ladies are always on dish duty
Women of all ages still tend to do more household chores than their male partners. A study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society found that women do around 16 hours of household chores every week, while men do closer to six. Women also did the bulk of the domestic duties in 93% of the couples analyzed. When both the men and women were employed full-time, the women were found to be five times more likely than the men to spend at least 20 hours a week doing household chores.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of men refusing to help out—it’s just that they don’t think about it as much,” Lombardo says. “Women are natural multitaskers and so will automatically do things they see need doing, while a man can walk past a sink full of dishes and not even register it as a thing that needs to be taken care of.” The solution? Talk it out! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to pitch in, she says.
Female athletes in most sports earn less
Take tennis, for example: Roger Federer has made $130 million in career prize money, while Serena Williams has earned $94.8 million in career prize money. And in the ranking of the top 50 highest-paid athletes in the world, Williams is one of only two women on the list. It’s hotly debated who is the better athlete, but it’s apparent from their paychecks which is the more valued athlete.
“In U.S. culture, masculinity is tied to sports, and athletic women threaten the masculine hold on sports,” Anderson says, adding that female athletes are downplayed in other ways too. “In photographs in sports magazines, women are often portrayed off the court or field, in sexualized poses, while men are shown playing their sport. This is a strategy to trivialize [women’s] athleticism and make their presence in sports less threatening,” she says. Research has shown, however, that sports are making steady, albeit slow, progress in pay equality.
Women do most of the caregiving
Upward of 75% of unpaid caregivers—mostly to children or elderly relatives—are women, according to Family Caregiver Alliance. And women spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. “We see it as normal when a woman takes care of the kids, but when we see a dad at the park with his child, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what’s happening here?'” Lombardo says. These gender roles may be loosening, however, as more men take pride in their role of father instead of saying that they’re “babysitting.” If you’re looking to support more female creatives, consider picking up these books by female authors.
Women are more likely to die of a heart attack
Heart disease is the leading killer of all Americans, regardless of gender or race, according to the American Heart Association. Yet, even though women and men tend to get heart attacks in roughly equal numbers throughout their lifetime, women are slower to get diagnosed, less likely to get treatment and more likely to die of a heart attack, according to research done by Harvard University.
One reason may be that heart attack symptoms look different in women, leading both patients and providers to miss crucial warning signs. The researchers also found that compared with men, women were less likely to receive adequate immediate and follow-up care, including being prescribed medications such as aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs, or to receive advice about quitting smoking.
Women are more likely to live and die in poverty
Poverty is heartbreaking no matter the gender, but data shows that women are at a much higher risk. Rates of poverty for males and females are the same throughout childhood, but then increase for women during their childbearing years and again in old age, according to the Center for American Progress. And women of color, single moms and the elderly are even more vulnerable.
Poverty has been linked to poor health outcomes including higher rates of suicide and depression, a greater risk of obesity and a higher rate of infant and maternal death, so the needs of poor women need to be addressed, stat. “Because women start out with less, they end up with less, it’s really a vicious cycle,” Lombardo says.
STEM industries are still largely dominated by men
Despite efforts over the past few decades to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math, these industries remain heavily male. This can turn into a self-reinforcing cycle, Anderson says. Because men have run these industries for so long, the jobs have become suited to the particular needs of men. “Often this creates a hostile environment for women,” she says. This may be intentional or unintentional, but until there is more leadership regarding gender issues and incentives to fix the problem, it will persist, she adds.
Sexual harassment, abuse and domestic violence hurt more women
Men can be victims of rape and harassment, but the statistics show that the vast majority of victims of sex crimes are female. Women are more likely to be catcalled, harassed at work, abused by a partner, molested as children and sex trafficked, according to RAINN. Until men lose status for mistreating women and until these crimes are fully prosecuted, we cannot expect these heartbreaking stats to change, Anderson says.
Now, take a look at these moments that changed women’s history forever.