Mar 9, 2020
Why Ignoring Gender Equality Is Unethical
As the gender equality movement in western cultures report on the pay gap and produce finely crafted charts depicting the percentages of women in the c-suite and serving on boards, the issues are neatly reduced to problems that can be fixed with better hiring practices and more pay transparency.
And while those things are necessary, they allow those of us in the western world to ignore the ugly underbelly of these issues: the historical and continual de-valuation of females, the cultural oppression, and the systemic barriers that women alone can not change. The measurements we focus on in the west are simply the most sanitary of the problems born of oppression, violence, and the de-humanization of half the population.
Ethics comes from the Greek word ethos, which is translated as character. Followers observe the actions of their leaders and determine their moral fabric. Issues such as discrimination, harassment, and equality are fundamentally about respect for individuals and different groups with diverse backgrounds. Leaders have an unavoidable responsibility to ethically address inequality issues.
At present, there are tragic global examples of the inequality faced by females.
In societies, such as China, where males outnumber females, many unmarried men choose to look outside their communities for prospective brides, such as those from Vietnam. But this demand for foreign brides opens the door to an ominous trend: Human trafficking.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimate a surplus of 30 to 40 million young men without marriage prospects. History has shown that a low female to male ratio leads to an expansion of the marriage market by decreasing the age of new brides. This shift has been linked with decreased education, economic opportunity, and at its most extreme, sex-trafficking, domestic violence, and honor killings.
This is a sobering problem in China, where women are being sold to men, especially in rural areas and the poorest regions. Many farmers see ‘purchasing’ a foreign bride as cheaper than paying a hefty dowry for a Chinese bride. While many Vietnamese women have married Chinese men of their own free will, others have been forced into unwanted marriages. Chinese police rescued and repatriated 1,281 abducted foreign women in 2012 alone, most of them from Southeast Asia. In 2015, the Cambodian government also helped 85 trafficked brides to return from China.
More dire examples of gender inequality exist.
The United Nations has estimated that up to 200 million females are missing globally, all due to sex-selective abortions, infanticide and parental neglect early in life, violence, and lifelong discrimination.
The “selective killing of members of a particular sex, referred to as ‘gendercide,’ might well be the greatest human rights tragedy in history. If the same number of females were ‘missing’ in the United States, America would be a men-only country” (from What Works, by Iris Bohnet).
In China, women were dragged out of their homes to abort their babies in hospital, all in the name of the one-child policy. These extreme measures, coupled with Chinese society’s preference for sons and the accessibility of ultrasound scans for sex selection, led to a systematic elimination of baby girls.
One of the volunteers recruited to report any violation of the policy, recounted: “The streets were littered with boxes. In those boxes, you’d find baby girls. Many were abandoned like that.”
This happened in the world’s second largest economy and the ripple effect will be felt for generations.
So I ask you: If this suddenly flipped and males were the victims of this level of ‘gendercide’, how fast would powerful leaders mobilize to right such an unethical wrong? How loudly would they spread the message that the elimination or oppression of a person solely based on their gender is immoral and unethical? How hard would they fight?
From an early age, we are taught as girls and women to be congenial, to please, to ‘not rock the boat’. Well, it is time to rock the boat.