On International Women’s Day, UN report details the gender discrimination women still face

On International Women’s Day, we take a closer look at the state of women and girls worldwide. Michelle Milford Morse, the United Nations Foundation’s vice president for girls and women strategy, joins NewsHour's Nicole Ellis to discuss the agency’s new report on gender inequality across the globe.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On International Women's Day, we wanted to take a closer look at the state of women and girls worldwide.

    "NewsHour"'s digital anchor, Nicole Ellis, spoke earlier today with Michelle Milford Morse, the United Nations Foundation's vice president for girls and women strategy, about the agency's new report on gender inequality across the globe.

    Here is part of that conversation.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    What are some of the biggest takeaways from this report?

    Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy, United Nations Foundation,: Two-point-four billion women don't have the same legal rights as men.

    What this means is that, globally and on average, girls and women only have three-quarters of the same rights that men do. We think that's outrageous. We think it's unacceptable. And we wanted people to know.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    Ninety-eight countries are not legally required to provide equal pay to women. So, is workplace inequality truly a fixable problem?

  • Michelle Milford Morse:

    Absolutely.

    Like, pay equality is a problem we can fix. Like, companies can pay men and women the same amount of money for the same work with no excuses. And, in fact, some of the companies we most admired have fixed that problem, and they fixed it in countries all over the world.

    But the pay gap is one of those gaps that has remained really stubborn over the past couple of decades. But there's a lot that employers can do to create workplaces that work for women. They can make sure that they have women at all levels of leadership in all levels of the company. They can make sure they have paid sick and family leave. They can make sure men also take that paid family leave.

    They can stop using diminishment and stereotypes in their advertising. They can pay women equally, and then they can also make sure they have safe workplaces. Also, 50 countries don't have any laws against sexual harassment at work. That is yet another problem that we can fix. That's unacceptable, and it doesn't have to be that way.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    Is there a disparity in the extent of inequalities experienced by women of color?

  • Michelle Milford Morse:

    Oh, it is vast. It is vast.

    I mean, the reality is that the data that I'm talking to you about, are global aggregates. These are global aggregate data about the experiences of girls and women across a range of challenges related to inequality. But those gaps are much bigger. They are bigger for Black women. They are bigger for women of color. These gaps are wider and steeper for trans women, for migrant women, for rural women, and for young women.

    There are overlapping levels of discrimination. And so it's really important that, when we talk about girls and women, it is OK, it is important, in fact, to cite global data about this experience, but we should also always acknowledge that not everyone is having the same experience.

    And, for some people, these gaps are bigger and steeper, and we have to pay extra, extra attention to that, and address those in really specific ways.

  • Nicole Ellis:

    And, finally, is there anything that can be done to stymie some of these inequalities?

  • Michelle Milford Morse:

    Oh, there's so much that can be done.

    I mean, this is not a time for despair. This is a time to act. And, luckily, there's a lot of things that people can be. The first thing I would point out is that inequality is a solvable problem. We don't need a leap in science or technology. We don't need any magic here. We need more political will. We need more solidarity. And we need better policy. That's the first thing.

    The second thing is that gender equality is better for girls, women, boys, and men in all their diversity. It's better for all of us. And it's not about men vs. women. It's about fair-minded people vs. fear-minded people, actually.

    And the third thing is that we have found that your voice matters. One of the best things that we know about this challenge is that, all over the world, movements matter. Connecting with legislators and parliamentarians matter.

    I mean, those laws I was citing earlier, there have been 1,500 reforms over the past couple of decades and in regions all over the world, and it is a credit to people who are asking their government for something fairer and something better.

    So, I'd want — I want anyone listening to know this is a solvable problem. This is within our grasp. Inequality is a choice. We can choose something different.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you can watch Nicole's full conversation with Michelle Milford Morse online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

Listen to this Segment