Bias and

The invisible forces
holding women back

Photo: UNDP Nepal/GMB Akash

It’s a shocking fact that well into the
21st century, there is not one single
country on earth where women are
truly equal to men. 

Photo: UNDP Iraq/Claire Thomas

In the last decades important gains have been made, yet women are persistently
discriminated against, particularly in areas that challenge power.

UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Report reveals the fight for gender equality
is a story of bias and prejudices. It’s not just a gender gap, it’s a power gap.

“Men have more
   right to a job”

Women are the most educated they
have ever been, yet when they enter
the workplace, they hit discrimination. 

They are still paid less, have fewer working opportunities, are less likely to be managers, and have fewer property rights than men. Women hold only 27 percent of senior business positions.

The share of female graduates in STEM
is lower than 15 percent in most countries.

Photo: UNDP/Karin Schermbrucker for Slingshot

Almost half of men and
women think men make
better political leaders.

“Men make 
   better leaders”

Photo: Drew Hays on Unsplash

Women and men vote in elections at
similar rates, but there are only 10 female
heads of government out of 193 countries,
and only under a quarter of parliamentary
seats worldwide are held by women.

Photo: UNDP Moldova/Alex Vdovichenko

“Women should
   know their place”

Discriminatory social norms are deeply
entrenched in all societies, rich and poor.

91 percent of men and 86 percent 
of women show at least one clear bias
against gender equality. And in some
countries these attitudes are deteriorating.

Countries with the highest bias:
Pakistan, Qatar, Nigeria, Zimbabwe
and Jordan.

“It’s okay
  for a man
  to beat
  his wife” 

One third of women and
girls have been physically
or sexually abused.

Photo: mimagephotography/

The #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos and
#TimesUp movements have exposed deep,
vicious and widespread sexual violence
against women.

Photo: Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash

“When a mother
   works outside
   the home
   children suffer”

Women must “juggle” their
responsibilities in order to
“have it all”. Most men need
not even pick up a ball. 

Women do more than three times unpaid work than men, which can keep them from having or advancing careers.
A recent Oxfam report shows women perform 12.5 billion hours of unpaid labour every day.


Real progress has been made
in the past two decades—
but only in some areas. 

When women 
societies succeed

Video: UNDP/Freya Morales

Two thirds of developing countries
have equal numbers of girls
and boys in primary school.

The maternal mortality ratio dropped
by 38 percent between 2000 to 2017.

Photo: UNDP Angola/Cynthia R Matonhodze

Yet there is a pushback in attitudes towards gender equality amongst men and women. The number of people that show some bias against women has grown in 15 out of 31 countries.

Women deserve
to be treated as equals

Because current policies can only take us so far, a new way of thinking
is required to root out the invisible power of deeply internalized beliefs.

Photo: UNDP India/Deepak Malik

Interventions to change unequal power
relationships or to challenge deeply
rooted gender roles can be achieved through
a new generation of policies, education and
by raising awareness.

The 25th anniversary of the visionary Beijing Declaration provides
a vital opportunity to take more innovative approaches to closing
the gender gaps and empowering women and girls.

Gender inequality threatens all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
At this rate it will take 257 years for women to have the same economic opportunities as men. 

Women have
a lot to contribute

Gender equality presents enormous
opportunities for men and women. 

Photo: mimagephotography/

Equality in the labour
force would add
US$28 trillion to the
global economy by 2025.

Video: UNDP/Linh Pham

Equal rights would
enable every woman
to fulfill her social
and economic potential,
free from fear  
and discrimination.

Photo: UNDP Peru/Monica Suárez Galindo

The message is clear: We must find new ways to approach and eliminate the harmful ideas that lead to gender discrimination. When half of humanity does not have the opportunities and freedoms of the other half, all of society loses.

Photo: UNDP Lebanon

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