Gender Equality by 2030: A Long Way to Go

22-05-2021 11:44:31
By : Shrishti Nagar

The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality. The emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and in culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. Furthermore, there is a significant threat of rollback of hard-won feminist gains.

The full and equal participation of women in all areas of society is a fundamental human right. Yet around the world, women and girls are considerably underrepresented - from politics and entertainment to the workplace. 

Here, we are trying to present you some scenarios that take a closer look at this gender-imbalanced landscape over time and reveal the slow pace of progress. 


The political representation of women in the world has doubled in the last 25 years. However, this represents only one woman in four people in parliaments, leaving more than three-quarters of seats held by men.

Women are still considerably underrepresented in the highest political positions. In October 2019, there were only 10 women Heads of State and 13 women Heads of Government in 22 countries. In 1995, there were four Heads of State and eight Prime Ministers in 12 countries.


In June 2019, the Fortune 500 list reached a milestone and recorded the highest number of female CEOs. While each new woman is a victory, the sum total paints a worrying picture: of the 500 people in CEO positions who lead the highest-earning companies, less than 7 per cent are women.

If the labor force as a whole is analyzed, the gender gap in labor market participation among adults of full employment age (25 to 54 years) has stagnated in the last 20 years. The better education women receive has done little to change occupational segregation, which is deeply entrenched in developed and developing countries. Women continue to perform a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work. In developing countries, this includes arduous tasks such as collecting water, the responsibility of which falls on women and girls that live in 80 per cent of households without access to water.

Culture and science

The Nobel Prize, which is awarded annually in recognition of intellectual and academic achievement, has been awarded to more than 900 people over the course of its history, from 1901 to 2019. Only 53 of those winners have been women: 19 in the categories of physics, chemistry and physiology or medicine. Marie Curie became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, when she and her husband were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics together. Eight years later, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alone, making her the only woman in history to win this Prize twice. Although women have been part of different scientific discoveries throughout history, only 30 per cent of those who research in the world and 35 per cent of students in science, technology, are women.


Progress is practically halted when one considers equality between men and women in the media arena. According to a study on the characterization, participation and representation of women in the media, which spanned 20 years and 114 countries, only 24 per cent of the people who are heard, read or seen in the written press, television or radio are women. There is also a glass ceiling for female journalists in articles and reports in the written press and on television: as of 2015, only 37 per cent of stories were authored by women, and this figure has not changed in 10 years. Despite the promise of democratization of digital media, the low representation of women in traditional media is also reflected in digital media: women are only 26 per cent of people who write news and journalistic tweets on the Internet. Only 4 per cent of traditional and digital newspaper articles openly challenge gender stereotypes. Among other factors, stereotypes and the considerable under-representation of women in the media play a crucial role in the formation of harmful attitudes, disrespect and violence against women.

Women in entertainment

Like other media, film and television have a significant influence on cultural perceptions and attitudes towards gender, and are essential in changing the narrative of the gender equality agenda. However, an analysis of famous films in 11 countries revealed, for example, that 31 per cent of the characters with lines of dialogue were women and that only 23 per cent of the films had a female protagonist, a figure that is very similar to the percentage of female filmmakers (21 per cent). 

The serious underrepresentation of women in the film industry is also flagrant in the most critically acclaimed film awards: in the 92-year history of the Oscars, only five women have been nominated in the Best Director category; of the five, only one won the award (Kathryn Bigelow). Jane Campion, for her part, remains the only female film director to win the most important and prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d'or, in its 72-year history. The only other women to receive this award (jointly) were actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, along with the film's director, Abdellatif Kechiche. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the message is worth a million.

Women in sport

Sport can inspire change and break gender stereotypes, and that's what women have been doing for decades: showing that they are just as capable, resilient and strong as men, not only physically but also strategically as leaders. Today, women are much more visible than ever in sport. For comparison, only 22 women (2.2 per cent) out of a total of 997 athletes competed in the modern-era Olympic Games for the first time in 1900. Despite progress, women are still excluded from certain sports in some parts of the world and are paid much less than men in salaries and monetary awards globally. UN Women is working to balance the situation of women and girls, for example through partnerships with the International Olympic Committee and with Marta Vieira da Silva, Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women and all-time top scorer at the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Culinary arts

Although women are assigned stereotypical roles in the home kitchen, the most prestigious positions in the restaurant industry are relatively foreign to female chefs. As detailed in the documentary- A Fine Line, women often have to overcome situations of active discrimination and circumvent a culture that not only glorifies masculinity, but also tacitly condones harassment. Women face very big challenges when entering the restaurant business: long, unpredictable and inflexible working hours, unfriendly family and care policies, and low wages. 

Rooted in patriarchal norms and traditions, the consequences are far-reaching and negatively impact the personal, economic and future well-being of women and girls, their families and the community at large. There is a sharp need to actively change the scenario in order to achieve gender equality by 2030.



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