Gender refers to the characteristics of masculinity or femininity, and is different, although usually equated to, a person’s biological sex. Social scientist John Money introduced the idea of the distinction between biological sex and gender role in 1955, but the idea did not gain prominence until the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, when feminist theory held that gender was a social construct.
Gender issues continue to be a political topic around the world as women still face discrimination and inequality. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden to drive, while in some areas of Afghanistan, girls are removed from schooling when they reach puberty. In many areas of the world, women are subjected to violence, including sexual assault and genital mutilation. Many first-world countries continue to treat domestic violence as a private matter.
In the United States, one of the current gender issues is that of equal pay. The “wage gap” that exists sees women earning only about eighty percent of what men do, and women are vastly underrepresented in corporate structures.
Gender issues have been highlighted at the “Women in World” Summit, which featured leading international politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde, the director of the International Monetary Fund. This conference highlighted both advances in gender issues and the need for continuing progress.