Why is gender inequality so pervasive? Where does it come from and what causes it to arise from time to time? Does it have cultural and religious roots? What values are needed to confront its resurgence worldwide and what policies will enable us to create societies in which being born a boy or a girl is no longer a reason for whether or not — or for how long or to what degree — we can develop our human potential?
We will take a look at some of these difficult questions and measure their cost on the security of individuals and society as a whole. We focus on how various restrictions against women have a direct impact on the economy of countries and the world. We evaluate the ways in which they undermine the talent pool available to the private sector, distort family relationships, and lead to inefficiencies in the use of resources. We analyze how gender bias contributes to an environment in which women, de facto, are second-class citizens, with fewer options than men, lower quality jobs, and lower pay. And we look at the devastating consequences of such inequality in terms of health, life expectancy, and violence against girls and women, from the cradle to the grave.
Women are not yet fully politically empowered to change laws and implement new legal instruments to ensure gender equality worldwide. We have still scant presence in the corridors of power, whether as finance ministers, central bank governors, prime ministers, or on the boards of leading corporations. Most importantly, in many parts of the world, including countries which consider themselves “advanced,” many girls still receive less educational opportunities and less encouragement to pursue the development of their highest potential. This alone creates a vicious cycle of inequality that persists generation after generation. But perhaps if we include an economic perspective in our arsenal to promote gender equality, the penny might finally drop. The bottom line is, we simply cannot afford gender discrimination any longer.