Home Egalitarianism The Gender Equality Paradox – Is There One?

The Gender Equality Paradox – Is There One?

by Matthew
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In a Gendersci Lab article from February 13, 2020 titled Measuring Gender Equality, author Marion Boulicault opens with the following statement – 

“Scientists report that, on average, men and women behave differently, display different personality traits, and have different interests and preferences.”

One wonders how many scientists it took to arrive at such a revolutionary conclusion. 

Because the truth is, any third grader could tell you as much.

What is “Gender Equality”?

According to UN Women, gender equality exists when women, men, girls and boys have identical rights, responsibilities and opportunities. 

The organization’s definition also states that gender equality doesn’t refer to sameness between the sexes, only that everyone should have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities whether they were born male or female. 

What is the Gender Equality Paradox?

The gender equality paradox is a term used to describe the phenomena in which the differences between genders tend to be greatest in wealthier and more egalitarian countries, and it’s often framed in the context of nature vs nurture

The nature view claims that the differences between men and women are innate and biological.

Conversely, the nurture theory proposes a more social explanation; namely that differences arise only after birth due to gender inequality

If this is true, gender differences should diminish and ultimately disappear as equality increases, but in the real world this just isn’t the case.  

In fact, multiple studies have found that as equality increases, the differences between genders tend to widen too.

A 2016 research article co-authored by Gijsbert Stoet, Drew H. Bailey, Alex M. Moore and David C. Geary found that –  

“In terms of performance, girls score lower than boys on mathematics tests in most developed nations.”

POLOS ONE Research article, 2016

But biology and environment aside, the so-called “Gender Equality Paradox” is a catchall phrase (blunt tool) used to address a myriad of issues. 

For example, another research article by Gijsbert Stoet and David C. Geary published in SAGE Journals in 2018 began with the following abstract: 

“The underrepresentation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is a continual concern for social scientists and policymakers.”

SAGE Research article, 2018

But as we’ll see, social scientists and policymakers would be well advised to spend their valuable time on more pressing issues. 

How is Gender Equality Measured? 

Or more accurately, how isn’t it measured? 

When it comes to tackling the perplexing problems associated with gender inequality, researchers have the following (and more) resources at their disposal: 

  • United Nations Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index 
  • United Nations Development Program’s Gender Empowerment Measure
  • Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index
  • OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index 
  • The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gender Gap Index

But to simplify things, gender equality data can generally be gleaned by focusing on the following areas:  

  • Health and survival
  • Political empowerment 
  • Educational availability and attainment
  • Economic opportunity and participation 

But it’s worth noting that statistics, indices and scholarly studies often lead to anomalous, contentious and misleading conclusions.  

The “UN Paradox(es)”

According to Wikipedia:

UN Women Facts & Figures states that:

“The total amount of Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ aid commitments in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment has increased significantly from USD 8 billion in 2002 to more than 41.7 billion in 2015-2016.”

If equality is the true aim, between the same years there must have been a corresponding increase in spending aimed at tackling areas where men and boys suffer poorer social outcomes, right? 

Wrong. 

Now let’s look at two Google searches. 

The first for “UN women”.

The screenshot below shows what comes up on the first page of results:

 Likewise, the second, third and fourth pages are populated with gobs of results from the UN, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every imaginable women-focused organization claiming to support equality.   

Clicking on the link to the official UN Women website you’ll find it chock-full of resources like: 

  • Articles 
  • Live webcasts
  • Featured videos
  • Heartwarming quotes from Greta Thunberg and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka 
  • And of course, a big blue DONATE NOW button

But a search for “UN men” reveals the following… 

Why fictional characters and comic books? 

Because there’s no such thing as UN Men

Rest assured though, UN websites always include disclaimers stating that the organization supports equality not only for women and girls, but for men and boys too. 

But don’t be fooled though, they’re just covering their proverbial duffs. Truth be told, they don’t put their money where their mouth is – literally.

Almost 100% of UN gender-focused programs and funding are geared toward areas where women have poorer social outcomes. This is despite the fact that starting in the last decade, the larger share of negative social incomes (both those that have always existed traditionally and new ones today) are shouldered by men.

Gender Equality and STEM

Proponents of gender equality continually point to women’s overall lack of participation in STEM fields in relation to men. 

Though their findings are hotly debated, research published in 2018 by the aforementioned Gijsbert Stoet and David C. Geary detailed a number of factors that they claim contribute to the gap between men and women’s participation in STEM.

Ironically, the study found that countries with less gender equality had more female STEM graduates than more gender-equal countries. 

They also concluded that highly egalitarian countries often had more educational and empowerment opportunities for women and girls, and that they tended to promote engagement in STEM fields.

If this is the case, why are the numbers so low?

When the Shoe’s on the Other Foot…

A 2019 New America article by Elise Franchino states that in 2018 approximately 94 percent of pre-K and kindergarten educators in the US were women.

Why?

Because men choose not to teach young children. 

That said, why is that when women are underrepresented in a particular area it’s cause for alarm, but when men are underrepresented it’s cause for celebration? 

In other words, why aren’t there any articles titled Celebrating Male Kindergarten Teachers or Celebrating Male Nurses

Equality = Freedom

In closing, author Marion Boulicault asks: 

“Does it matter whether men and women feel equal or is it enough that they have equal rights and opportunities?”

It’s a tricky question. 

Political correctness aside, it’s one that organizations like the UN would probably rather ask like this…

“Should men and women feel equal based on their own experiences, or should they only feel equal when we tell them they’re justified in doing so?” 

There’s one clear takeaway. 

When given equal opportunities and the freedom to pursue their own interests, that’s exactly what they do, and they lead more fulfilling and productive lives. 

And if that means choosing the classroom or the home over the virology lab, so be it. It’s their right to choose.

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