Gender Equality and Economic Development

By Maria Sapozhnikova

Living in the Western world in the Twenty-First century it sometimes shocking to realize how much more has to be done for gender equality. Although, in most of the developed world today women are struggling with equal pay and inappropriate behavior towards them, most of us are able to find jobs and drive a car with no issues. There are countries in the Middle East and Asia, where a woman cannot drive a car, cannot find a job and cannot get an education. And without these basic necessities no country can become truly developed economically or otherwise. Although lots of research states that women «as primary caretakers of families, communities and natural resources, women have accumulated specific knowledge and skills about local conditions and ecological resources. Furthermore, research has shown that women are more inclined than men to choose sustainability as a lifestyle, engage in environmentally appropriate behavior and make sustainable consumption choices». However, gender discrimination creates a restriction for women’s contribution to economic development.

For example, Saudi Arabia is a top 20 economy in the world, however; the treatment of women in the country is infamous, according to The Washington Post: «Women can’t get driving licenses, meaning that, legally, they cannot drive. Women are also expected to keep their heads covered with scarves and wear loose fitting garments such as an abaya when in public. And adult women need to have a “male guardian’s” permission to do things like work or travel, a severe restriction on their freedom». A country that treats women like this is one of the major US allies. Which raises two questions: Will the United States ever get rid of its the relatively tolerable gender discriminations since they are seemingly okay with Saudi Arabia’s? And how can the women’s workforce continue emerging around the world and contributing to development? Of course, it is important to understand and respect the different cultures of different countries. For some people, this might be a sensitive issue and I think it will be wise to remind people of the importance of understanding and respecting different cultures even if we disagree with some things. But I believe, it is time for women in the developed world, in which they have more rights and ability to stand up for women around the world.