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16 Ways Women Still Aren’t Equal to Men

Why it's better than ever to be a woman—except for these little imbalance issues the world still needs to work on.

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It’s a man’s world

Women’s rights have come a long way; there was a time when women couldn’t vote, own property, or serve in the military. Imagine that! But, even though in the eyes of the law women and men are equal, there are still some areas of life where gender equality just doesn’t play out like it should.

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Women earn 83 cents for every dollar men earn

The pay gap between men and women has long been discussed and has been a sad fact of life ever since women entered the workforce. The bad news? We’re still dealing with it: The most recent data show that women earned 83 cents for every dollar men earn. That means women would have to work far into the next year to earn what the average man earns the previous year. It’s worse for BIPOC women: Black women earn 57 cents for every dollar non-Hispanic White men earn; for Native American women that number is 50 cents, and for Latinas it’s 49 cents. There is some good news, however. Among younger workers, ages 25 to 34, the gap is significantly smaller, with women earning 90 percent of what men do. It’s not equal yet but it’s great progress!

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Viagra isn’t taxed but tampons are

The items considered a medical necessity—and therefore tax-exempt—isn’t as clear-cut as one might hope. But here’s what’s abundantly clear: Medications and supplies specifically for men often make the list while things many women consider essential don’t. “That women still have to fight for birth control coverage on insurance while men often have access to erectile dysfunction medication is an outrage,” says Kristin Anderson, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown and author of Modern Misogyny. Currently 20 states have enacted legislation to end the so-called “Pink Tax” on tampons and sanitary pads. Then there are medications that cost more for women, like the popular hair-loss drug, Rogaine, which costs 40 percent more for women than it does for men, even though the medication is exactly the same.

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Less than 24 percent of members of congress are women

In 2020, 51 percent of Americans are women, yet we make up just 23.7 percent of our government representatives in congress and of the 26 women currently serving as Senators, only four are BIPOC. Why? “I think it comes down to two things: A lack of modeling, and stereotypes about what women should be,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect. Women are often seen as being too soft or sensitive to be in the tough world of politics but the more women see other women killing it in politics, the more they’ll be inspired to step into leadership roles themselves, she explains. Thankfully, this situation is changing fast: In 2019, a record number of women were elected to Congress. For more inspiration, check out these 58 trailblazing women who made history.

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Men are more likely to receive higher salaries and raises than women in the same position

One reason for the gender pay gap may be the difference in willingness to ask for more money. For instance, only 7 percent of women tried to negotiate their salary when applying for a job, in one Harvard study. (Hint: It’s one of the 8 mistakes women make when negotiating a raise or salary) Women were also more likely to apply for, and accept, lower-paying jobs than men with the same skill level. “Many women are taught that they will be given what they deserve, and if they just do their best then their boss will notice their hard work and reward them with a raise,” Dr. Lombardo says. “Men? They just ask for it.” This would be a good time to take a page from the men’s playbook, she says. “Don’t let someone else define what you deserve. Do your research, decide for yourself what you are worth, and ask for what you want,” she says.

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Women are less likely to get promoted than men

Thanks to family obligations, a woman’s career arc often looks very different than a man’s, and one of the primary ways this shows up is in promotions. Even though both genders say they want to be promoted in equal amounts, women are 15 percent less likely to actually get promoted, according to a recent study done by LeanIn and Mckinsey & Co. One problem is that women won’t apply for a promotion unless they feel they meet the qualifications 100 percent, while men will apply even if they only partly qualify, Dr. Lombardo says. Another possible reason is that men are seen as more assertive and aggressive in pursuing career opportunities while the same behavior in women is seen as “uncompromising,” she adds. Then there’s the work-life balance issue: 13 percent of women have turned down a promotion in order to better care for their children, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Foundation.

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Men’s deodorant is cheaper than women’s

Women have long known that if you want to save a little cash on personal items or services—such as clothing, hygiene products, dry cleaning, and shoes—you should shop in the men’s section to avoid the “Pink Tax.” A study compared products with nearly identical ingredients and found that almost half the time, the woman’s product was more expensive, costing about 13 percent more. Forty percent of the time, the prices were equal, and the remaining 18 percent of the time, men paid more. “The reason for this is the widely held cultural stereotype that women are complicated, and men are simple and straightforward,” Dr. Anderson says. “In reality, this just reflects how ludicrous and arbitrary sexism can be.” But, she notes, there is some improvement, with some states passing laws banning practices such as different prices for haircuts and dry cleaning.

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Just 20 percent of CEOs are women

The gender gap in leadership increases as the positions do, according to the LeanIn study. At the entry level, 52 percent are men and 48 percent are women. But at the manager level, 62 percent are men and 38 percent are women, at the vice-president level 70 percent are men and 30 percent are women, and by the time you reach the C-suite, the gender gap skyrockets, with almost 80 percent of CEOs being men. Of the Fortune 500 companies, a mere 37 are helmed by women; none are BIPOC. “This is the perfect example of the ‘old boys club’ mentality; men are more likely to promote other men,” Dr. Lombardo says. It doesn’t have to stay this way, however. One way to start changing this is by using your voice, she says. “Corporate women are often afraid to speak up because they’re afraid to be wrong,” she explains. “It’s OK to be wrong. Failing doesn’t make you a failure.”

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Ladies are always on dish duty

Women of all ages still tend to do more household chores than their male partners. A study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society found that women do around 16 hours of household chores every week, while men do closer to six. Women also did the bulk of the domestic duties in 93 percent of the couples analyzed. When both the man and woman were employed full time, the women were found to be five times more likely than men to spend at least 20 hours a week doing household chores. “I don’t think it’s a matter of men refusing to help out—it’s just that they don’t think about it as much,” Dr. Lombardo says. “Women are natural multitaskers and so will automatically do things they see need doing while a man can walk past a sink full of dishes and not even register it as a thing that needs to be taken care of.” The solution? Talk it out! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to pitch in, she says.

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Female athletes in most sports earn less

Take tennis, for example: Roger Federer has made $186.8 million in career prize money while Serena Williams has earned $58.4 million in career prize money. And in the ranking of the top 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, Williams is the only woman. It’s hotly debated who is the better athlete, but it’s apparent from their paychecks which one is the more valued athlete. “In U.S. culture, masculinity is tied to sports, and athletic women threaten the masculine hold on sports,” Dr. Anderson says, adding that female athletes are downplayed in other ways too. “In photographs in sports magazines, women are often portrayed off the court or field, in sexualized poses, while men are shown playing their sport. This is a strategy to trivialize their athleticism and make their presence in sports less threatening,” she says. Research has shown, however, that sports are making steady, albeit slow, progress in pay equality.

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Women do most of the caregiving

Upwards of 75 percent of unpaid caregivers—mostly to children or elderly relatives—are women, according to Family Caregiver Alliance. And women spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than males. “We see it as normal when a woman takes care of the kids, but when we see a dad at the park with his child it’s like ‘Whoa, what’s happening here?'” Dr. Lombardo says. These gender roles may be loosening however, as more men take pride in their role of father instead of saying that they’re babysitting.

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Women outspend men on medical care by almost 2:1

Women can expect to spend nearly half a million dollars on medical care over the course of their lifetime while men can expect to spend about $350,000 (adjusted for inflation), according to a study published in Health Services Research. Despite a ruling issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prohibiting gender discrimination in health care and health insurance, women’s care is far more expensive than men’s. Why? Most insurance companies consider women a higher “risk” because they tend to visit the doctor more often, they live longer, and, of course, they have babies.

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Women are more likely to die of a heart attack

Heart disease is the leading killer of all Americans, regardless of gender or race, according to the American Heart Association. Yet, even though women and men tend to get heart attacks in roughly equal numbers throughout their lifetime, women are slower to get diagnosed, less likely to get treatment, and more likely to die of a heart attack, according to research done by Harvard University. One reason may be that heart attack symptoms look different in women, leading both patients and providers to miss crucial warning signs. The researchers also found that compared with men, women were less likely to receive adequate immediate and follow-up care, including being prescribed medications such as aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs, or to receive advice about quitting smoking.

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Women are more likely to live and die in poverty

Poverty is heartbreaking no matter the gender, but recent data show that women are at a much higher risk. Rates of poverty for males and females are the same throughout childhood, but then increase for women during their childbearing years and again in old age, according to the Center for American Progress. And women of color, single moms, and the elderly are even more vulnerable. Poverty has been linked to poor health outcomes including higher rates of suicide and depression, a greater risk of obesity, and a higher rate of infant and maternal death, so the needs of poor women need to be addressed stat. “Because women start out with less, they end up with less, it’s really a vicious cycle,” Dr. Lombardo says.

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Mothers fare much worse in the workplace than fathers

Two-thirds of working moms said they significantly reduced their hours or quit their job in order to take care of their children, according to the Pew Research survey. This isn’t necessarily a problem on its own, as many women want to make this choice, but the financial repercussions for taking the “mommy track” can be severe and set her back for the rest of her life, Dr. Lombardo says. “Many (but not all) women are naturally more nurturing and emotionally attuned to the needs of others,” she explains. “Unfortunately our society doesn’t inherently value those softer skills. They say, ‘Well that’s nice of you to do that but those skills aren’t worth any money.'” It’s not that mothers should necessarily be paid for taking care of their own kids but rather that we need to make taking leave and returning to work a lot easier, along with a flexible workplace that prioritizes a balanced life for all workers.

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STEM industries are still largely dominated by men

Despite efforts over the past few decades to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, these industries remain heavily male. This can turn into a self-reinforcing cycle, Dr. Anderson says. Because men have run these industries for so long, the jobs have become suited to the particular needs of men. “Often this creates a hostile environment for women,” she says. This may be intentional or unintentional but until there is more leadership regarding gender issues and incentives to fix the problem, it will persist, she adds.

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Sexual harassment, abuse, and domestic violence hurt more women

Men can be victims of rape and harassment, it’s true, but the statistics show that the vast majority of victims of sex crimes are female. Women are more likely to be catcalled, harassed at work, abused by a partner, molested as children, and sex trafficked according to RAINN. Until men lose status for mistreating women and until these crimes are fully prosecuted, we cannot expect these heartbreaking stats to change, Dr. Anderson says. Now, take a look at these moments that changed women’s history forever.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX and NBC.