It may seem like everyone is always talking about gender inequality and the wage gap—as if these are outdated subjects. Shouldn’t we have solved those issues by now? But the truth is that gender inequality is still rampant, and it is brought to the attention of diplomats and the general public by people like UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, who made an impassioned speech in September about how gender inequality is not a woman’s issue—it’s a human issue.
If you are looking for a good research paper topic in gender studies or women’s studies, consider looking at the wage gap, the content of (or reactions to) UN Ambassador Emma Watson’s speech, or a recent study that shows girls are actually ahead of boys—worldwide—in receiving higher grades and achieving student success.
UN Ambassador Emma Watson’s HeForShe
Best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” film series, Watson is also a recent graduate, and was named the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador during the summer of 2014. On September 20, she gave a moving speech that has since gone viral. In response to some women distancing themselves from the word feminist, Watson said, as reported by Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson in the September 21 post “Watch Emma Watson Deliver a Game-Changing Speech on Feminism for the U.N.“:
“Why is the word such an uncomfortable one? I … think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”
Watson is launching the HeForShe initiative, in which she hopes to bring men alongside women to fight gender inequality. Predictably in the current Internet environment, Watson received threats (and there were falsified rumors of her death) after the speech went viral. A website, later proved to be a hoax, threatening to post nude pictures of Watson in retaliation for her feminist agenda, was posted via 4chan.
The gender wage gap
Watson’s mention of the wage gap comes as the National Women’s Law Center announced that women in full time jobs make 78 cents to the dollar received by their male counterparts. That is an increase of 1 cent from last year. That’s in the United States, but the wage gap is common in other nations as well. In “Women’s Employment, Education, and the Gender Gap in 17 Countries” for the Monthly Labor Review, published April 2012, Paula England, Janet Gornick, and Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer suggested that the issue of the wage gap is dependent on factors beyond gender, including level of education.
Traditional assumptions claim low-income families are more likely to have two parents working than well-educated, higher earning families. But the opposite is often true, as the higher income the mother receives means that she is more likely to be able to afford childcare, and vice versa. Some of the wage gap, the authors wrote, “flows from women’s employment interruptions” due to mothering, but they also point out that continuously employed women still encounter “glass ceiling” limits to their careers. “Generally the finding is that men earn more than women at every education level but the gap is smaller at higher education levels,” the writers concluded.
The gender education gap
New research indicates that worldwide, girls get better grades than boys at all education levels, even in subject areas where boys have traditionally been thought to excel (math and science). Enrico Gnaulati of The Atlantic in “Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do,” posted September 18, 2014, wrote that a University of New Brunswick study found that the ability to self-regulate (read directions, follow instructions, delay gratification and focus on homework) is a primary indicator of student success, and one that is biologically more common among girls. (The worldwide nature of the study shows that this is true cross-culturally.) Gnaulati reported that at the college level, “girls succeed over boys in school because they tend to be more mastery-oriented in their schoolwork habits. They are more apt to plan ahead, set academic goals and put effort into achieving those goals. … On the whole, boys approach schoolwork differently. They are more performance-oriented. Studying for and taking tests taps into their competitive instincts.” Thus, girls tend to perform better on long-term projects, and boys tend to perform better on tests.
What do you think about the recent reports on the wage and education statistics? Tell us in the comments.