An international research team has developed a new way to measure gender inequality that they say is more accurate and fairer to both men and women compared to previous models. The new model, called the Basic Index of Gender Inequality (BIGI), focuses on three primary factors: educational opportunities, healthy life expectancy and overall life satisfaction.
Researchers from the University of Missouri (MU) and the University of Essex in the United Kingdom published their new report in the journal PLOS ONE.
“We calculated BIGI scores for 134 nations, representing 6.8 billion people,” said Dr. David Geary, Curators Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.
“Surprisingly, our new measure indicated that men are, on average, more disadvantaged than women in 91 countries compared with a relative disadvantage for women in 43 countries. We sought to correct the bias toward women’s issues in existing measures and at the same time develop a simple measure that is useful in any country in the world, regardless of their level of economic development.”
Until now the Global Gender Gap Index, introduced in 2006, has been one of the most established and well-used measures of national gender inequality, used by academics and policy makers worldwide. But the researchers argue that it does not look at issues where men are at a disadvantage, such as harsher punishments for the same crime, compulsory military service and more occupational deaths.
The complexity of the Global Gender Gap Index also means it can be difficult to determine whether gender differences are the result of inequality or personal preference.
Using the BIGI measure, the researchers found the most developed countries in the world come closest to reaching gender equality, but with a slight advantage for women. In the least developed countries, women nearly always fall behind men, primarily because they have fewer opportunities to get a good education.
In countries with medium-levels of development, the findings are more mixed: There are nearly the same number of countries where women fall behind as countries where men fall behind. The men’s disadvantage is largely due to a shorter healthy lifespan.
“No existing measure of gender inequality fully captures the hardships that are disproportionately experienced by men and so they do not fully capture the extent to which any nation is promoting the well-being of all its citizens,” said Dr. Gijsbert Stoet, professor of psychology at the University of Essex.
“The BIGI provides a much simpler way of tackling gender inequality and it focuses on aspects of life that are directly relevant to all people.”
Researchers say that when BIGI is added to other existing models of gender equality, it provides a fuller picture of gender equality that can be used by policymakers to introduce changes to improve the quality of life for everyone.
According to Stoet, improvements in gender equality can be made by focusing on education in the least developed nations and by focusing on preventative health care in medium and highly developed nations.
“With the BIGI, we are focusing on issues that are important to all women and men in any nation, regardless of level of economic and political development, and by including factors that can disadvantage men as well as women,” Geary said.
“Current equality measures are generally biased to highlight women’s issues and thus are not really measures of gender equality.”
Source: University of Missouri-Columbia