On 2017 International Day of the Girl, 18-year-old Alda from Indonesia took over as secretary-general of the OECD for a day. A youth activist for Plan International, Alda also found time to write a blog about what life is like for girls in her country. She says that teen pregnancy, child marriage and gender discrimination are the everyday reality for too many girls. Statistics show that more women than men do not know how to read or write. In Indonesia, education is the key to making girls’ lives better. Read Alda’s blog here.
Julia Wanjiru, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) Secretariat
Respect of the fundamental rights of women and girls remains a serious, sometimes life-threatening, concern in many developing countries. Several decades of gender debates, special events and development goals dedicated to the empowerment of women, add up to only modest improvements on the ground.
Let’s look at a few examples from West Africa.
Child marriage. Seven West African countries rank among the top 20 countries in the world with the highest rates of child marriage. In Niger, three out of four girls marry before their 18th birthdays, contributing to the fact that Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world (7 children per woman in child-bearing age). Nigeria is among the top 20 countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriages, with 1.2 million married girls. By depriving its girls of the chance to develop their potential, the region is collectively losing a huge amount of human capital.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). FGM/C remains a widespread practice in West Africa, even though its prevalence varies considerably from one country to the next—ranging from 2% in Niger to 97% in Guinea. Many initiatives are working against this practice and some countries have passed laws to formally forbid female circumcision (Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, etc.). However, law enforcement has trouble cracking down on these deeply rooted traditions and mentalities. According to WHO estimates, more than 3 million additional girls worldwide are cut each year—mostly by elderly women.
Educational gaps. Huge strides have been made in getting more girls into schools, but when it comes to assessing educational outcomes, the results are much less impressive. The net school attendance rate for girls from 2011-2014 was about 50% for the poorest performing countries like Chad, Mali and Niger. These countries also have the lowest literacy rates for girls (15% in Niger and 34% in Mali—far below sub-Saharan Africa’s 2015 average of 69%). The gender gap is progressively closing, but no country in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary education. The most persistent barriers to girls’ education are: early marriage and early motherhood, traditional seclusion practices, the favouring of boys when it comes to family investment in education and the gendered division of household labour.
Ensuring equal opportunities for women and men, girls and boys in Africa will take time, massive educational efforts and profound changes to existing ways of thinking. Those changes might be supported by more exposure to external influences; the diaspora and media sources like TV series and movies can help accelerate these changes.
The legal frameworks, policies and strategies are hard to find, but they do exist. Since the mid-2000s, almost every West African country has created a national gender policy or strategy. Regional organisations like ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS and the African Union have all adopted gender policies and they are increasingly mainstreaming gender issues in different policy sectors. But, in practice, gender is still considered mostly as an afterthought and gender policies are often not implemented effectively. Ministries in charge of gender issues have usually very large portfolios— ranging from youth, sports, CSO, employment and drug control. They are often understaffed, under-funded and not taken seriously. Budgets allocated to gender-specific issues within sectoral policies remain tiny; disaggregated gender data is missing. To make some decisive progress, strong political will must come from the very top level, including from key ministries such as economic affairs, budget and strategic planning.
The weak implementation of gender-focused policies is, however, not just a funding problem. There are many other obstacles and risk factors: strong individual and institutional resistance to gender initiatives, deep-rooted cultural issues and traditions, general under-representation of women in the public sphere, illiteracy, etc.
Much of the gender debate seems to take place in a bubble, with gender experts mostly preaching to the choir. We cannot make headway on gender equality by having discussions that are mostly made up of women and gender experts. Moreover, women’s affairs are often associated with charities and are promoted for example, by African first ladies and many other famous female ambassadors—sometimes very successfully but a large number of initiatives are also instrumentalised for political ends. How many of their male counterparts are active in promoting gender equality? As long as the gender debate remains solely a women’s issue, it won’t move far.
It should not be forgotten, that gender is not just a matter of achieving equal opportunities for women and men. Gender equality is an economic development issue. Here again, the message is not new, but it still has not been sufficiently brought to the attention of all policy-makers. How can a country voluntarily deprive itself of the human potential of half of its population? The economic cost is enormous.
To reduce gender inequality more effectively and achieve sustainable development, we need to get more men on board. We also need to invest more in the education of girls and boys. Everywhere in the world, education has been a key driver of gender equality. An educated girl is better equipped to defend her interests and choose the life she wants. Education can also raise boys’ awareness of gender issues and make them less prone to seeing gender equity as a loss of privileges for themselves. Men could become true allies in building a society based on equal rights and opportunities.
But education alone is not enough. How many educated women and men still face pressure from their communities to conform? Girls’ education, beyond a certain level, is still seen by many as a “waste of time.” A 30-year old unmarried woman is not a “respected woman,” no matter how successful she might be in her professional life; she is seen as having failed to fulfil her “true mission” to be a wife and mother.
In order to change these deeply rooted prejudices, more effort must be made to target opinion leaders and traditional chiefs who set the agendas within their communities. The chiefs could play a much more active role in helping their communities move away from gender stereotypes, or at least, to not deepen them. For example, Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano in northern Nigeria (population around 15 million), just announced a proposal to outlaw forced marriage, make domestic violence illegal, and impose minimum financial conditions upon men who want to marry a second wife. The proposed law does not exactly promote gender equality, but Kano state is taking a concrete step forward in a way that will make a difference in the lives of millions of women and children.
This year, International Women’s Day will again be marked by declarations of good intentions and statements—including mine. What should count, though, is not the number of commitments we make, but the true progress we achieve on the ground. At the end of the day, African girls and women will need to tell their own stories, fight for their own rights and work to achieve equal representation. If men were ready to help them, things would move much faster.
Maps & Facts:
Au Sahel, au-delà de la Journée des droits des femmes, des fillettes interdites d’enfance [Girls robbed of their childhood in the Sahel] Laurent Bossard, Director, SWAC Secretariat in Le Monde
International Women’s Day at the OECD:
- Development seminar on women’s economic empowerment
- Conference on business, finance and gender
- 17h-18h: Webinar on Gender differences and PISA
Friday, 14-17h, Seminar on gender equality before the law
 UNESCO (2015): Gender and EFA 2000-2015: achievements and challenges, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002348/234809E.pdf
Today is the UN International Day for Tolerance. Stéphane Carcillo and Marie-Anne Valfort of the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs explain why the OECD wants to play a leading role in promoting LGBT inclusivity.
Over the last two decades, attitudes toward LGBT have been improving in a majority of OECD countries (see Figure 1). Yet, even among this group of countries which turns out to be the most tolerant worldwide, homophobia and transphobia remain widespread, with an average score lower than 5 on the “justifiability of homosexuality” scale – where 1 means that homosexuality is never justifiable and 10 means that it is always justifiable.
In this context, sexual minorities are at risk of unfair treatment, with deleterious effects on their well-being. The mere awareness of belonging to a group which is discriminated against is indeed associated with emotional distress, not to mention the traumatic effects of undergoing verbal or physical violence. Anti-LGBT discrimination likely weighs more indirectly on happiness, by adversely impacting dimensions critical for welfare, including family life, education, labour market outcomes and health.
Ensuring that LGBT can openly express their sexual orientation and gender identity without being discriminated against constitutes a priority for the OECD, for at least three reasons.
The first reason is ethical. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should therefore never be subjected to forced concealment or discrimination when revealed.
The second reason is social. Improving attitudes toward LGBT has the potential to dramatically boost individuals’ capacity of living together. Greater acceptance of any minority likely leads to greater acceptance of other people’s differences in general. And, indeed, people who accept homosexuality also have more positive attitudes toward immigrants (see Figure 2). But there is more. Attitudes toward LGBT are closely related to endorsement of traditional gender roles. In this context, reducing homophobia and transphobia could considerably enhance social cohesion by not only improving attitudes toward LGBT and other minorities but by also prompting support for gender equality (see Figure 3).
Note: Attitudes toward immigrants are based on responses to the following EVS/WVS question: “When jobs are scarce, employers should give priority to people of this country over immigrants.” (=1 if agree, =2 if neither agree nor disagree, =3 if disagree).
Note: Attitudes toward women are based on an average of responses to the following three EVS/WVS questions: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” (=1 if agree, =2 if neither agree nor disagree, =3 if disagree); “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do.” (=1 if strongly agree, =2 agree, =3 if disagree, =4 if strongly disagree), “A university education is more important for a boy than for a girl” (=1 if strongly agree, =2 agree, =3 if disagree, =4 if strongly disagree).
The third reason behind combating anti-LGBT discrimination is economic. Discrimination against LGBT at school and in the labour market generates a considerable cost. Moreover, an economy unable to value diversity misses substantial benefits. Diversity enables the sharing of a richer array of competences, experiences and viewpoints that is not offset by greater difficulty of communication or greater likelihood of conflict, at least in contexts where diversity inclusivity is a commitment. All in all, reducing anti-LGBT discrimination might trigger off important economic gains. This is all the more plausible given that LGBT constitute a sizeable minority (roughly 4% in the US, based on recent estimates of the LGB and transgender populations). As a comparison, Muslims, another minority at risk of discrimination, represent 1% of the US population.
For all these reasons, with the support of the Netherlands, the United-States, Austria and Denmark, the OECD is undertaking an ambitious research project that aims to better measure anti-LGBT discrimination and its consequences on a cross-national basis, and identify policies conducive to LGBT inclusivity. As a first step, the OECD will soon release a background paper that provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific evidence on the extent of anti-LGBT discrimination and its impact on key socioeconomic dimensions of their lives.
Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals
Monika Queisser, Senior Counsellor, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs
The push for policies to improve gender equality at the global level is getting new impetus through the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG No. 5 is devoted to gender equality and aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The goal’s detailed targets refer to a range of challenges, such as discrimination of women, violence against women, reproductive health, ownership rights and technology. Global progress in reaching these targets has been uneven. Despite impressive progress in enrolling girls in primary education, for example, gender equality in many other domains is still in far reach in the developing world.
This does not mean, however, that advanced economies can lean back and close the file. No single OECD country can claim to have achieved full gender equality. Women are now as well or even better educated than men in most countries and their participation in the labour market has increased, but they still spend fewer hours in paid work per week than their partners. And even the most advanced countries, such as the Nordics, where women are well integrated in the labour markets, are faced with stubbornly high gender wage gaps and a continued lack of women in senior management positions, for example.
The consensus is growing that traditional gender stereotypes and roles are standing in the way of further progress in closing the gender gaps. In literally all countries for which data exist women do more unpaid work than men. As a result they have less time for paid work and fewer opportunities to develop their careers. Policy makers are thus starting to focus more on a better sharing of caring responsibilities and domestic work. This new policy direction is also reflected in one of the targets under SDG 5 which calls upon governments to “recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.”
New evidence from the OECD shows that countries with the smallest gender gaps in caring responsibilities also have the smallest gender gaps in employment rates. On average, female partners spend twice as much time in unpaid work at home than their partners. Couples where women participate more in the labour market, also appear to have a better gender balance in their cooking, caring and cleaning chores. But sadly this is not due to men doing more at home. The reason is that partnered women and dual-earner couples overall do less unpaid work.
Parenthood marks a turning point in the way couples share household and caring tasks. When a child arrives couples often revert to more traditional gender roles. Mothers may spend more time with their children than fathers, but fathers spend a larger proportion of their childcare time with “quality” interactive activities such as reading, playing and talking with the child than mothers.
The reasons why women do more unpaid work are manifold; some women prefer fewer hours in paid work or to not work in a paid job at all, particularly when they have young children. But many other women would like to be in paid work and/or work more hours. But they struggle to reconcile work and family life due to constraints such as limited access to affordable and good quality child care or flexible working hours. OECD analysis has also revealed several other factors that may influence the sharing of unpaid work among partners, such as family size, education and/or the relative earnings potential of partners. Gender inequality in the public sphere, societal attitudes, and policies, in particular parental leave arrangements, are also associated with different levels of sharing across countries.
In 2014, G20 leaders adopted a common goal of reducing the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025. Better sharing of unpaid and paid work will be an important element of any strategy to reach this ambitious target. But change will not happen if gender equality is only pushed by women and for women. Men need to be champions as well if barriers and gender stereotypes are to be broken down. And there is a lot in it for men too. They will be able to spend more time with their family without harming their careers, if this becomes more of a shared norm. There will be more freedom to choose one’s role in society and less pressure for men to be the sole or main breadwinner of the family. Having more income from women’s work will provide greater financial security for their households and reduce overall income inequality. Men, like women, will benefit equally from broader effects of more gender equality, such as stronger economic growth, higher productivity, and improved sustainability of social protection systems. And children will not only be happier to spend more time with both of their parents, but as they grow up, they will find it normal for fathers to spend more time at home and mothers to spend more time at work. More gender equality is thus a win-win proposition, everyone has to gain from it.
Women Deliver (WD) 4th Global Conference, 16-19 May, Copenhagen. The WD gender equality site is here
Monika Queisser, Willem Adema and Chris Clarke, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. This article is also being published by the EUROPP blog at the London School of Economics.
Prince William did it, Justin Timberlake did it, and so did David Cameron and Mark Zuckerberg. All four took paternity leave to spend time with babies George, Charlotte, Silas, Florence and Max. These trailblazers are great role models in combining family and work – at least when a new baby arrives – but men around the world are still too slow in following their example. And this despite the fact that more than half of OECD countries grant fathers paid paternity leave when a child is born; and paid parental leave, i.e. a longer period of job-protected leave open to both parents, is also available in more and more countries.
Parental leave for fathers typically lasts between two and three months and comes in different forms. Most common are “daddy quotas”, or specific portions of paid leave reserved for the father only. Some countries offer “bonus periods”, meaning that a couple may qualify for extra weeks of paid leave if the father uses up a certain period of a sharable leave. Other countries simply provide both parents with their own individual entitlement with no sharable period at all. So, in theory, more dads could be at home taking care of their kids and making it easier for both the mothers and themselves to live up to the expectations of babies and bosses.
The reality, however, looks very different. Fathers usually take a few days off right after the birth of a baby, but only the most committed and bravest use their right to longer parental leave. In many countries, fathers account for less than 20 per cent of those taking paid parental leave. Scandinavian and Portuguese men are more progressive: their share among paid parental leave users goes up to 40 per cent or more. Fathers in Australia, the Czech Republic and Poland, by contrast, shun parental leave; only about one in fifty paid leave takers is male. The most generous leave entitlements exist in Japan and Korea: a full year of paid leave is reserved just for the father – but very few men take advantage of it.
Figure 1: Fathers’ leave entitlements
Why are we seeing so little movement in breaking up traditional gender roles? We are told that Generations X,Y and Z are looking for better balance of work and family life. So why are young fathers not even taking the days to which they are legally entitled?
Financial considerations are powerful factors in making leave decisions. Women still make about 15 per cent less than men, on average in OECD countries. So economically speaking it often simply makes more sense for fathers to continue working, especially if parental leave is paid at much lower rates than previous earnings or not paid at all. The period around childbirth is often a time of considerable stress on household budgets. Many families may feel that they cannot make that sacrifice. Arguably, neither Prince William nor Mark Zuckerberg had to lose sleep over making serious dents in family income when deciding to spend their time cuddling and changing diapers for a while.
Figure 2: Gender wage gap
Not surprisingly, research suggests that fathers’ use of parental leave is highest when leave is not just paid but well paid – perhaps around half or more of previous earnings. The father quotas in Iceland and Sweden are relatively well paid at over 60 per cent of last earnings. Similarly, a 2007 policy reform in Germany introduced well-paid bonus months for partners; as a result the share of children whose father took leave increased by over 50 per cent in Germany between 2008 and 2013, reaching 32 per cent.
But gender norms and cultural traditions still present serious obstacles to fathers taking leave. A 2013 survey by the Korean trade unions asked Korean fathers why they decided not to take leave; it showed that more than half were worried about the negative prejudices that they would be exposed to. In France, where men account for only 4 per cent of parents claiming parental leave benefits, 46 per cent of the fathers who did not take their full leave entitlement said that they were simply “not interested”. And in all but 6 OECD countries, at least 50 per cent of people surveyed by the International Social Survey Programme believe that paid leave should be taken ‘entirely’ or ‘mostly’ by the mother; and in the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Turkey a whopping 80 per cent of respondents agreed with this statement.
Finally, employers’ opinions and the environment in the company obviously play a crucial role. Some employers may regard a father taking long leave as not being committed to his job, leading fathers contemplating a longer break to fear for their career and promotion prospects. In Japan and Korea, fathers taking paid parental leave are concerned this would have negative effects on their career and their relationship with colleagues. Such workplace attitudes may be less pronounced in many other OECD countries, but even in Sweden, working in a small workplace or in one with a long-hours culture can keep fathers from using parental leave.
Public policy can provide the best conditions to enable fathers to spend more time with their children. But change needs to come both from employers and fathers themselves if we want to succeed in a better sharing of paid and unpaid work between men and women. This is not only about promoting gender equality at work and at home; it is also about improving the quality of life – for men, women and children.
I once got corrected by some pedant for talking about a “tennis bat”, so as you may realise, I don’t know much about the sport. But I do like Andy Murray, ever since I saw an interview with him after he’d won some big game that lasted for ages. The journalist mentioned that his mother and girlfriend were in the crowd, and that it must have been really hard for them. A professional athlete is trained to react instantaneously to this by talking about “my greatest supporters, always there for me, an inspiration, etc.”. Not our Andy. “Aye, maybe” he muttered, “but it was a lot harder for me”.
Andy tells it like it is, and in this interview he explains why he picked a woman to coach him: because Amélie Mauresmo is the best in the world. He also describes the reaction to his choice and how the press blamed Mauresmo when he lost – something that never happened when he was being coached by men, despite the fact that he rose from world number 14 to number 3 thanks to her.
You don’t expect a tennis player to be smarter than a Noble prize winner, but compare that with science laureate Tim Hunt, reported by The Guardian: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.” And if you think Andy Murray is clueless about the media, Hunt made this remark at a meeting of science journalists.
Sexism in science isn’t always so aggressive or panicky. There’s also the “benevolent sexism” discussed in this article in Scientific American. The authors quote the obituary of Yvonne Brill: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said. But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.” Can you imagine a male scientist being described first in terms of his housekeeping and parenting accomplishments before mentioning that he “also” had a major impact on his field?
A “PISA in Focus” study on What Lies behind Gender Inequality in Education? published in March found that girls – even high-achieving girls – tend to underachieve compared to boys when they are asked to “think like scientists”, such as when they are asked to formulate situations mathematically or interpret phenomena scientifically. The PISA authors suggest that this gender difference may be related to students’ self-confidence. “When students are more self-confident, they give themselves the freedom to fail, to engage in the trial-and-error processes that are fundamental to acquiring knowledge in mathematics and science.” Parents are more likely to expect their sons rather than their daughters to work in a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) field, even when their 15-year-old boys and girls perform at the same level in mathematics.
The PISA results confirm what you probably suspected, namely that sexist attitudes towards girls and women in science start early. Various other OECD studies along with data from research carried out elsewhere show that although boys and girls initially have the same ability and interest in STEM, a series of social and cultural factors help to split certain disciplines and professions according to gender. For example, in an experiment conducted in French high schools, cited by the OECD Global Science Forum in Encouraging Student Interest in Science and Technology Studies, fictitious orientation files with the same data were tested with teachers. When the fictitious first name is male, teachers’ orientation of the student towards science is twice as frequent as when the first name is female.
Heartbreaker Hunt isn’t the only one worrying his pretty little head about women. And his unease about clever girls has a long history. In 1914 when lesser spirits were getting in a flap about the impending war and other trivia, Berlin University professor Hans Friedenthal warned the world of where the real danger lay: “Brain work will cause the ‘new woman’ to become bald, while increasing masculinity and contempt for beauty will induce the growth of hair on the face. In the future, therefore, women will be bald and will wear long moustaches and patriarchal beards”.
Now that’s what I can call “thinking like a scientist”!
Today’s post is from the OECD Statistics Directorate
Lack of data limits the ability to measure women’s conditions in an accurate and comprehensive way, and to make informed decisions about how women and girls fare. The post-2015 development agenda will translate into an increased demand for gender statistics that are regularly produced and provide solid and objective evidence. However, there are many data gaps in national and international monitoring of gender inequality, particularly in less-traditional areas of official statistics. Countries face many challenges in mainstreaming the gender dimension into data production, analysis and dissemination.
To address this, the OECD is working with the United Nations and the World Bank through the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) Initiative to build national capacity to produce and disseminate gender statistics and create standards for data collection. We are also contributing to improving access to gender statistics through our Gender Data Portal, which gathers information on various topics of relevance to the post-2015 development agenda, including education, employment, entrepreneurship, unpaid work.
In terms of the metrics themselves, gender parity is not sufficient for measuring gender equality. Indicators that measure the quality of change are also necessary. For example, women may have similar rates of paid employment as men but this does not mean that they are paid the same or that they have the same opportunities for career advancement. Across OECD countries, women working full-time earn on average 16% less than men, although there is substantial variation amongst countries. Moreover, wage penalties increase as women get older and have children. Among women of child-bearing age who work full-time, those with children earn 22% less than men and 7% less than childless women. Conventional statistics do not measure the security of jobs either, which is particularly important since women’s paid employment is often more vulnerable than men’s, especially in developing countries. The OECD’s work on job quality may shed new light on the working conditions that women face around the world.
Women do not stop working when they leave their offices. At home, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work, such as child-rearing and household tasks. Across the OECD, women spend twice as much time as men on household chores and parenting. In other words, if women and men were to share unpaid tasks equally, women would gain 5 hours of free time per week. There are large variations from country to country: an average Italian woman spends 22 hours (or almost 3 full-time workdays) more than her partner on unpaid work per week, while this gap averages 5 hours in the Nordic countries.
When both paid and unpaid work are combined, the gender gap in working hours narrows, but it’s still the women who put in the longest hours. However, this kind of work is too often under-recorded or undervalued. Time-use data and statistics on time spent on domestic chores and caring are available only in around a third of countries of the world. An even smaller number of countries “value” this unpaid work through satellite accounts for household production. The OECD is contributing to fill this gap through its Time-Use Database, which gathers detailed information on how total time per day is spent in different activities in OECD countries and selected emerging economies.
Time spent in unpaid work and leisure
Minutes per day
Another important issue is the fact that data is simply not being collected for certain areas. Not because it is not possible, but because it has not been thought of or because power imbalances between men and women in institutions shape data collection priorities.
A good example is gender-based violence. The absence of an indicator on violence against women (VAW) in the MDG framework due to lack of data was a ‘missed opportunity’. Only half the countries in the world currently produce official statistics on violence against women. And yet both the extent of such violence and costs of this form of discrimination call for action. Worldwide, 35% of all women report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partner or others in their lifetime. In the OECD area, one in four women reports having been a victim of such forms of violence at least once in her life. We expect great improvements in the cross-country comparability of data on VAW after the recent release of the Guidelines on Collecting Data on VAW by the UN Statistics Division. But we should also explore other data sources, such as records from shelters, hotlines, hospitals, the press or Internet searches. The OECD is currently undertaking research on the determinants of violence against women and on the costs of such violence to women.
Finally, a significant challenge relates to the need to measure gender equality and women’s rights for different demographic and social groups. Lifecycle analyses suggest that women and girls face constraints that can be age-specific or may be specific to different socio-economic groups. Disaggregated statistics along these lines should be promoted to assess how gender interacts with other ‘disadvantages’ or characteristics.