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The benefits of full equality for women

Progress, understanding, and tolerance are greatly improved in districts, regions, and nations with higher educational standards. Teaching priorities may differ, but a definition of a successful system is one that encourages and enables people to make rational decisions, even if they disagree with their local majority. In a truly educated world, this should not penalize them. Nevertheless, the idea is altruistic and rarely does it occur. It is particularly difficult for women to receive the same level of education as men, even in the higher-status levels of society. Equality in career, job opportunities, and pay are certainly not the same as for men. The rare exceptions effectively underline this disparity. The often unrecognized feature of this is that the losers are not just women, but the entire nation where they live.

Many societies throughout human history have shown, and continue to show, a totally barbaric attitude and treatment towards women. They are denied access to education, receive very severe punishments for crimes or actions for which men in the same society receive no punishment whatsoever, and they are effectively treated as a different species without any of the rights one should accord to them. Current news programmes, TV, and other media give daily examples of these abominable attitudes.

The temptation is to say that it is always driven by religious teaching, but clearly it is somewhat more fundamental in human behaviour, as it is easy to cite examples from many regions, countries, and faiths throughout recorded history. To directly oppose such persecution of women is difficult—especially if it is inspired by religion—as any criticism is seen as interference that will just harden the situation. Therefore a more productive approach is to ask what the society has lost by marginalization of women. The question is relevant even for a society such as the UK, where lip service to equality and voting power exist, but in many careers women are seriously underrepresented, and their salaries are lower.

With a continued focus on the need for knowledge and exploitation of the skills and intelligence in order to build strong and rich societies, it seems blatantly obvious that any society that ignores or degrades half the population is functioning far below its real potential. In fact, failure to educate women and allow them equally opportunities is considerably more serious than halving the pool of potential knowledge and intelligence. Children are critically dependent on the attitudes, information, and skills that they learn in the earliest formative phase of life. Their primary interactions are mostly with mothers (and grandparents), so if the mother is uneducated, then they are all (boys and girls) doomed to mentally develop far below their true potential. There is strong evidence that failure to mentally stimulate children in the first months and years is an irreversible loss for them.

The situation is identical in a husband and wife relationship, as both need to mentally stimulate each other, and this is only feasible if they have comparable education. A high level of education for women, as well as men, is thus a national essential, even if they do not both choose to enter the general work force.

Any political leadership, whether secular or religious, that fails in the education of women is also failing in the development and economic growth of their nation. Advanced nations, whose economies depend on technological skills, are throwing away more than 50 per cent of the wealth and quality of life of their country. The leaders who realize they can double the economic and cultural status of their countries, and then act on it, will be hailed by their nation and go down as heroes for future generations.

In earlier historical times, the superior strength of men was particularly valuable in hunting and manual labour, but this is now irrelevant in most activities. For example, in warfare, the sophisticated equipment is rarely dependent on physical strength, but instead it now needs understanding and control of electronics (e.g. missiles and drones can as easily be targeted and operated by young girls as by mature men). In civilian roles, a very high percentage of men have office jobs requiring computer- or desk-based skills, or work where power is provided by machinery. For such tasks, men and women are equally suited. Indeed, as shown in both the world wars of the twentieth century, even the manual factory and farming skills were competently taken over by women after men had left for the battlefields. A more tenuous possibility is that a higher concentration of women at senior levels of national administration might imply a reduction in the testosterone levels and aggressiveness that has characterized the last few thousand years of human history.

The logic and value of having equality of opportunity, salary, and education for men and women is clear; there is a correlation between gender equality and which are the major successful nations of the current world. True parity does not yet exist, although for leading nations there is a gradual trend that enables women to enter any profession or career, and certainly to rise through the system into key posts in industry and politics. It is still premature to be complacent. Encouragement and pressure on those countries where women are underrated is still an urgent social and political priority.

A final very positive aspect of education and equality for women is that in countries where this is taking place, there are very noticeable drops in the birth rate and improvements in health and longevity.

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