23 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men

Jenny Hollander, Megan Friedman
·13 min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The feminist movement has made huge strides over the years. Still, more than a century since women were given the right to vote, the sad fact of the matter is: We've still got a lot of work to do. Somehow, "feminism" remains a controversial word, even though the definition of feminism is impossible to argue with—an effort to make sure every woman and every individual has rights equal to that of a cis white man, no matter their race, religion, gender identification, sexual preference, or anything else.

Sounds like a common-sense cause, right? Well, in spite of a plethora of data proving that women are not equal to men in America, many people disagree with the premise of feminism, arguing that women already are equal to men, or that their gains haven't matched men's because they haven't worked hard enough, or that women and men are inherently and biologically different and cannot be compared. Others agree that women's rights are a noble cause, but that men's rights aren't given the same consideration.

In actuality, most feminists consider men also at a disadvantage because of the inequality between men and women. When we socialize men to not show sadness and fear, to provide financially and not emotionally, and to not seek mental health help, to name a few examples, we contribute to a culture that harms both men and women. At the same time, men, particularly cis white men, are statistically at an advantage when it comes to earning power, career progression, and a multitude of other factors. Feminism is the hard work that both men and women have to do to level the playing field—even more so now that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities between men and women and for women of color especially.

Here, some of the shocking ways women aren't yet equal to men, both inside and outside of the United States.

1. Women pay more for common household items than men do.

Shampoo, deodorant—even a 10-pack of socks—are among the many products that cost more for women, according to an analysis by Marie Claire.

2. And the "pink tax" isn't just for personal care items.

Although things like razors and shampoo are the most egregiously upcharged items, the so-called pink tax meant that all kinds of items geared at women cost more: Toys and accessories for girls were found to be 7 percent higher. Women pay more for clothes and protective gear like helmets (not to mention bigger-ticket items like mortgages). They even pay more for senior home healthcare products, meaning they pay more for common items from the beginning to the end of their lives.

In October 2020, New York banned the pink tax, and 20 states so far have gotten rid of the tampon tax (i.e., taxes on period products), so hopefully other states will follow suit. However, H.R. 2048, the Pink Tax Repeal Act, died in Congress in 2019.

3. Women make less money than their male counterparts.

Although the pay gap is narrowing, women in the U.S. working full- and part-time make 85 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to the Pew Research Center. In other words, women would need to work an extra 40 days a year to make as much as men. It's an even grimmer picture overseas: Women worldwide make 77 percent of the amount paid to men, according to a report from the United Nation's International Labor Organization.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

4. For Black, Latina, and women of color, the pay gap is even worse.

Black women have to work 19 months to make what white men did in a year, according to the National Women's Law Center (the current numbers place them as earning $0.63 for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man). That number is even steeper for Latina women ($0.55 for every dollar). Asian American and Pacific Islander women are paid 52 cents for every dollar.

5. Women are underrepresented in government.

Although women make up nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population, only 27 percent of Congress is comprised of women, which—fortunately or unfortunately—makes the current Congress the most diverse in American history. Worldwide, just 25.5 percent of all national parliamentarians were female as March 2021, according to the U.N.

6. Women are the minority in the executive suite.

At Fortune 500 companies, women currently account for just 7.4 percent of CEOs, according to Fortune. Studies also found that women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have significantly shorter tenures than male CEOs; women at the top tend to stay in their positions for about 44 months on average compared to the 60 months that men do.

There are, however, some positive changes happening: 49 percent of all Standard & Poor 500 board seats are now occupied by women; CNBC reported that Dallas-based online car auction site Copart added its first female board-member in July, marking 2019 as the first ever year where every S&P company has at least one woman on its board. Never mind the fact that, per CNBC, no women cracked the list of the top five highest paid CEOs in the stock market index. As of 2020, representation of women on boards has increased to only 28 percent.

7. Women are also the minority in the news media.

The Women's Media Center's 2019 edition of The Status of Women in the U.S. Media reported that though women comprise 41.7 percent of the overall news media workforce, they aren't being compensated appropriately; gendered pay disparities are still observable in newsrooms of major outlets like the Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, with men earning substantially more than women.

8. And they're the minority in the tech sector, too.

In 2019, only 25 percent of American computing jobs are held by women, disclosed Dream Host in its annual State of Women in Tech address—and that was actually down substantially from previous years. It can be attributed, in part, to the simultaneously declining number of female college students planning on entering the tech sector; of the women enrolled in universities across the country, just 20 percent were studying engineering, and only 18 percent were computer science minors. That number has since only increased to about 27.3 percent.

The turnover rate of female employees in tech is also disturbingly high. Whereas only 17 percent of men in the industry leave their company at a given time, 41 percent of women in tech resign from their positions, with 56 percent of that group leaving mid-career.

9. When women enter male-dominated industries, the pay decreases.

As women make the cross over into workspaces mostly occupied by men, often in search of higher salaries with more benefits, the opposite actually happens—the average pay for the industry tends to drop significantly over time, confirms The New York Times.

10. Female entrepreneurs receive less funding and investments.

Getting funding for a startup is hard enough, but sexism and gender inequality often complicate starting one's own business even further. According to findings from All Raise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of female entrepreneurs, only 11 percent of venture capitalists are women (and other sources actually have that number as even lower). Of the existing VC firms, 71 percent don't have a single female partner, and only 7 percent have equal gender representation.

Women interested in running their own startup usually meet difficulties when it comes to securing the capital, and All Raise predicts that the number of female VCs will continue to plateau and possibly even decrease over time if nothing is done to change the current industry.

11. Women still shoulder more of the household burden.

Despite the fact that women are more educated and more employed than ever before, they're still tasked with the majority of household duties. Forbes reported that 54 percent of women take maternity leave, while just 42 percent of men take time away from their jobs. Additionally, women are taking 10 times as much temporary leave to be with their newborns than men do, often saddling them with additional financial burdens. Women are also more likely to work from home, look after sick kids, or even quit their jobs completely to be caretakers.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

12. Only 10 countries offer women full legal protections.

Speaking of protections around motherhood, according to a 2021 World Bank study, the U.S.'s lack of laws around parental leave, equal pay, and equal pensions meant it didn't even crack the top 30 countries that offer women full legal equality with men. In fact, only 10 countries scored a perfect 100 percent in terms of legislation ensuring equality: Belgium, France, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Canada, Iceland, Portugal, and Ireland. The U.S. scored a 91.3 percent, right alongside Taiwan, Cyprus, and Albania.

13. Women are more likely to be injured in car crashes.

And the reason why is depressing and infuriating. A 2011 New York Times article found that women were 47 percent more likely to be injured in car crashes because the safety features were—you guessed it—designed for men. In 2021, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that women are still much more likely to be injured, despite men driving more and exhibiting more reckless behavior behind the wheel. Women are three times as likely to get a moderate injury and twice as likely to be severely injured. The underlying cause here was behavior: Men tended to drive larger cars and be the car that struck another vehicle. Another not-so-fun fact? Women pay more for cars and car insurance, despite this.

14. Women are far more likely to be the victims of human trafficking.

In a 2019 article, NPR reported on the disturbing recent uptick in human trafficking. Using data from an annual report conducted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the study found the number of girls forced into trafficking has risen exponentially, most frequently for sexual exploitation.

Sexual exploitation remains the most common form of human trafficking; forced labor isn't far behind.

15. Female soldiers face rape and harassment.

In a Smithsonian study conducted in conjunction with American military newspaper Stars and Stripes, 66 percent of female service members reported experiencing sexual harassment or sexual assault—and that number is way up from the 27 percent that the Defense Department reported in 2015.

16. Women overall are at a greater risk of rape and domestic violence.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV). Eighty-one percent of these women (who may have experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner) reported significant short- or long-term impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and injury.

17. Retired women are twice as likely as retired men to live in poverty.

As women make less money but live longer, a clear issue presents itself: The longer a woman is on earth, the more money she needs to have in order to survive. Around three out of seven women who want to retire by age 67 will seriously struggle with saving, says CBNC. Survey results from Aon, a global risk, retirement, and health consulting company, show that most women have an average of about 7.6 times their salary saved by that age when they really need to save 11.6 times what they make yearly.

18. Women of all ages are, in fact, more likely than men to live below the poverty line.

Across the U.S., 15.5 percent of women live in poverty compared with 11.9 percent of men, according to a report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. That number worsens for Black, Hispanic, and Native American women. Worldwide, the majority of the more than 1 billion people living in poverty are women, according to the U.N.

19. Women and girls face more chronic hunger.

It's estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people around the world are women and girls, and it can be a statistic that's a trickle-down effect of larger problems of gender inequality like lack of education, lack of job opportunities, and violence against women. According to WFP Gender Policy and Strategy, high food prices, climate change, and economic instability exacerbate existing inequities. It's not solely a global trend: Women disproportionately experience hunger in the United States when compared to men. In this country, 26.6 percent of families with a single mother live below the poverty line and are more likely to be food insecure at 31.6 percent (compared to 14.9 percent and 21.7 percent for single fathers, respectively).

20. And women spend more on health insurance and healthcare.

Because women have children and live longer, historically they've been considered higher "risks" from a health insurance perspective—meaning they've been charged more. Despite the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issuing a ruling prohibiting discrimination in health insurance and healthcare in 2013, women still pay more (and get less) from health insurance and their healthcare usage. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019 showed that women paid $1,500 more on average on healthcare every year, and yet also skipped out on preventative treatments and other treatments due to cost.

21. Women in Hollywood aren't given the same opportunities as men in the industry.

Behind the scenes, women working in Tinseltown make up only a small portion of the workforce; according to the New York Film Academy's 2018 Gender Inequality in Film Infographic, the ratio of men to women working on films is 5 to 1. There are seven times as many men writing film scripts as there are women, and women only account for 11 percent of directors in Hollywood across genres.

22. And they certainly aren't paid the same.

Back in 2018, the film All the Money in the World made headlines, but not for the reasons one would expect. It was revealed that Mark Wahlberg made $5 million to do necessary reshoots for the movie while his co-star Michelle Williams only received $625,000. Shocking, but not at all uncommon in Hollywood; Forbes reported that actresses earned only about 35 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts in the industry.

23. Despite being as successful as male athletes, women in sports still face gender inequality.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) studied sports coverage and found that there were significant differences in the way that female athletes and their games were discussed in the sports media. Coverage of women in sports, says the organization, is often dominated by references to appearance, age, or family life—men are depicted as powerful, independent, dominating, and valued as athletes.

Besides gendered conversations by sports pundits, female athletes are still trying to fight against the wage gap that exists in the sports world. Most notably, the United States Women's Soccer team recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) alleging gender discrimination. Despite winning more games and bringing in more revenue than the U.S. Men's team, Megan Rapinoe and her comrades on the USWNT earn less than half of what the men do. Part of the lawsuit was dismissed in 2020; The players settled another part (inequitable working conditions) and say they plan to appeal.

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