Chapter 6: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture

Measuring Gender Equality

Learning Activity 4: Gender Equality

Personal Reflection and/or Group Discussion:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Not at all” and 10 being “Very much,” how much does gender equality affect you?

Each year since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published a Global Gender Gap Report to gauge gender equality on a global scale. The report uses a framework to capture the different rates of social participation of men and women and tracks their progress over time. Annually, it measures women’s participation in four areas: the economy, education, health, and politics. According to the 2021 report, the Global Gender Gap score of the 156 participating countries was 67.7%. This means that the remaining gap to close stands at 32.3% (World Economic Forum, 2021, p. 9). The “gap” refers to gender parity—that is, women and men’s equal participation in education, health, politics, and the economy. The World Economic Forum projects that it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide (p. 5). Several countries have seen improvements in their scores over time (Global Development Commons, n.d.), but most countries’ scores dropped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted women’s employment, care burden, and safety from gender-based violence and human trafficking in Canada and around the world (Luna, 2021; Oxfam International, 2022a; Standing Committee on the Status of Women, 2021).

The frameworks underpinning such measures are subject to critique, particularly when the analysis demonstrates how Western Europe and North America are champions of gender equality in comparison to the regions ranked lowest, such as the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia (WEF, 2021, p. 20). Notwithstanding, the Gender Gap Report produces important data and stands for accountability to gender equality. In some aspects, it contradicts the “Third World Woman” stereotype by revealing that countries with lower GDPs than Canada can score a higher ranking; for example, Rwanda and Nicaragua. However, it can also mask other markers of inequality that are not measured through the report, such as gender-based violence against women or the experiences of gender-diverse and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. Gender parity offers one measure of gender equality; however, reaching gender equality requires a wholesale approach, as we will see in the next section on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Learning Activity 5: Global Gender Gap

  1. Visit the World Economic Forum website to find the most recent Global Gender Gap Report (
  2. Find a country of interest to you—perhaps a country in which you have lived or have visited. What is the country’s rank?
  3. Find Canada’s ranking. How do the rankings compare overall and in each of the areas of the economy, education, health, and politics?
  4. How might a country’s gender gap rank influence a settlement worker’s perception of a client from that country?

Gender Equality – A Global Goal

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed by the United Nations, where each member country has committed to their achievement. According to UN Women (2014a), sustainable development refers to “economic, social, and environmental development that ensures human well-being and dignity, ecological integrity, gender equality, and social justice, now and in the future” (p. 26).

The aim of the SDGs is to reach these goals by 2030 in order to fight global inequality, end extreme poverty, and respect our planet. The United Nations claims that all the goals can be achieved through solidarity and the mobilization of every person, urging multilevel action from government, civil society, and business on a global scale

Gender equality is central to the SDGs because it impacts each of the other 17 Global Goals, and the SDGs recognize the human impact of gender inequality. The plan to reach these goals is situated within development discourse, which is commonly critiqued for its focus on economic growth for the benefit of Western interests. Thus, gender equality is central to the SDGs because it improves economic growth and development. Notwithstanding, SDG Global Goal 5, to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” outlines important global targets:

SDG 5: Gender Equality – Global Targets:

5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

5.4 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.

5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic, and public life.

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

(United Nations, n.d.)

Learning Activity 6: SGD 5 – Global Targets and Examples

There are five global targets that United Nations is focusing on to increase gender equity worldwide. The targets are 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 5.5 and are listed above. In this online activity, you will find statistics and examples illustrating these targets. Can you connect each target to its example in this online matching activity?

Campaigning for Gender Equality

The Sustainable Development Goals claim that if each person can move towards fixing inequities where they live, cumulatively, we can make a difference. Campaigning is a way to spread awareness about gender equality. A campaign is an action or a type of mobilization that occurs when people do something to encourage others to take action.

Example of a Gender Equality Campaigner

As a result of the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, more than 6.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee their country since 2011, and another 6.7 million people remain internally displaced. At the age of 15, Muzoon Almellehan moved with her family to a refugee camp in Jordan for three years. At the camp, 40 girls in her class dropped out of school to get married at the age of 14 or 15. Muzoon went door to door to persuade parents to leave girls in refugee schools rather than using early marriage as a source of survival. She also tried to persuade children to remain in school to prevent child marriage. After immigrating to the United Kingdom as a refugee, she continued her advocacy, including returning to Jordan. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (Mendos et al., 2020).

Learning Activity 7: Video: “I Believe in the Syrian Children”

Watch Muzoon Almellehan’s video Educate a Girl, Spark Hope.


  • Why does gender equality need a campaign?
  • What is the relationship between settlement work and the SDGs?

Mapping Sexual-Orientation Laws

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA World) is a worldwide federation of 1801 member organizations from 168 countries that has been campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTQI) rights since 1978. It is governed by a board with representatives of diverse LGBTQI people from around the world. Every year, ILGA World produces a State-Sponsored Homophobia Report covering core information on legislation affecting people on the basis of their sexual orientation and tracks changes within multiple countries over time (Mendos et al., 2020). ILGA World assigns overall scores to each region and on a global scale. This output can be useful for tracking the pace of change, both in terms of laws that criminalize and laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation. ILGA World states: “The number of “criminalising countries”—currently at 69—is considered to be among the global indicators of state-sponsored hostility against sexual diversity” (Mendos et al., 2020, p. 11).


Sexual Orientation Laws in the World
Image: ILGA World. (2020). 2020 map – Sexual orientation laws in the world.

ILGA World also publishes maps of sexual orientation laws in various countries that are translated into multiple languages for use all over the world. It addresses the limitations of its publications in that they do not cover in depth the legal issues related to gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. It also recognizes that “the law then clearly paints only a partial picture of the situation in the countries we cover in this report …. How hostile or safe a country is cannot be derived exclusively from what said country’s legal framework looks like” (Mendos et al., 2020, p. 9). ILGA World’s reporting and mapping is relied upon by its readership, including members of civil society, social justice advocates, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, and the United Nations (Mendos et al., 2020, p. 9).

Learning Activity 8: Sexual Orientation Laws in the World

  1. Examine the most recent ILGA World Map of Sexual Orientation Laws in the World, and pay attention to the colour-coded legend depicting levels of criminalization and protection. Feel free to read the map in the language of your choice, as available.
  2. Choose three countries where you have either lived or travelled.
  3. For those countries, what is their status on criminalization or protection?
  4. How do these laws reflect your lived experience of the country? Do these laws impact how easy or difficult it is for you to live or travel there?
  5. Think back to the question posed earlier in the chapter: How much does gender equality affect you? After considering the ILGA World maps, has your answer changed?


Video: Watch Last Chance by Paul Émile d’Entremont, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

This National Film Board of Canada film follows the journeys of five individuals who leave their homelands to seek refugee status in Canada to escape homophobic violence. The viewer learns about their stories, reasons for leaving, and the steps they take to seek asylum in Canada. Warning: This film contains stories about graphic violence faced by the subjects of the documentary.

In July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide (Parliament of Canada, n.d.). Canada is often considered to be a “safe” country for people of diverse gender and sexual identities. The settlement sector, as well as other community services, have built capacity in recent years to meet the unique settlement needs of LGBTQQIA+ immigrants and refugees, and continue to identify best practices to improve gaps in services. See the resources from provincial hub organizations listed below for further information:

Canada’s Gender and Immigrant Pay Gaps

Have you ever considered how gender inequality affects your paycheque? According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, “the gender pay gap for full-time and part-time employees is 0.89, which means women make 89 cents of every dollar men make” (Statistics Canada, 2022). The gender pay gap is worse for those who face multiple barriers, including racialized women, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2022, para. 2).

“The gender pay gap refers to the difference in average earnings of people based on gender. It is a widely recognized indicator of gender inequities, and it exists across industries and professional levels. There are different ways of measuring the gap, but no matter how you measure it, the gap still exists” (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2022, para. 1).

The immigrant wage gap, according to the Conference Board of Canada is widely recognized: “despite their high levels of education, Canadian immigrants have higher unemployment rates and lower wages than Canadian-born workers” (2022, para. 8). The immigrant wage gap is also gendered, meaning that the wage gap is larger between immigrant women and Canadian born-women, than is the gap between immigrant men and Canadian-born men (Conference Board of Canada, 2022, para. 19). The graph below depicts the immigrant wage gap by province, as well as a gender pay gap, where the gap was higher for men in three provinces.

Immigrant Wage Gap Higher for Women in Most Provinces, 2015
Image: Conference Board of Canada and Statistics Canada. (2022). Immigrant wage gap higher for women in most provinces, 2015 [Graph]. Copyright Conference Board of Canada, 2022.

Learning Activity 9: Pay Gaps

This section serves as a brief introduction to the concepts of the gender pay gap and the immigrant wage gap. Brainstorm any questions you have about this research.

Review the websites cited in this section to research your answers:


  1. What is the relationship between gender equality and the concept of a wage or pay gap?
  2. In light of what you have learned about gender pay gaps and immigrant wage gaps, what role do settlement workers play in supporting newcomers?


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Canadian Settlement in Action: History and Future Copyright © 2021 by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book