It is a pervasive, long-standing, and deeply disturbing fact that, by many ways of measuring well-being, women around the globe live lesser lives than men. In much of the world they are less well nourished, less healthy, and less well educated (UNIFEM, 2000). Everywhere they are vulnerable to violence and abuse by men. It has been estimated that as a result of these facts, and because in many places girl babies are disproportionately aborted or killed, there are one billion missing women (Dreze and Sen, 1989). Many more women in the world lack access to education and many more are illiterate. Jobs that are high paying are much less likely to be held by women. Tedious and menial work is much more likely to be done by women. Women in the workforce are paid less than their male counterparts, are more often harassed and intimidated in work, and are far more often responsible for childcare and housework “after work.” Independently of their participation in the paying workforce, women suffer from domestic violence at much greater rates, bear primary responsibility for childrearing and housework, and are much more likely to be sick and poor in their old age. In much of the world women do not have access to safe abortion, or sometimes even to contraception, further putting women's health and well-being at risk. Women everywhere bear almost the full burden of unplanned pregnancies. Women in many nations of the world lack full formal equality under the law. Where they have it, they are less likely to be able to access the judicial system, and so still lack substantive equality. And almost nowhere in teh world do woemn hold high government offices at anywhere near the rates of men. In short, when we compare the life prospects of women and men, we find that a woman is far more likely to be poor, unhealthy, abused, and politically disenfranchised, even while she works longer hours and is largely responsible for the primary care of future generations.
Two general explanations could account for this remarkable disparity in life prospects: (1) women are by nature inferior to men, and so less worthy of concern or less able to benefit from equal concern, or (2) women are systematically disadvantaged by society.
Ann E. Cudd and Leslie E. Jones, "Sexism", in R. G. Frey and C. H. Wellman (eds), A Companion to Applied Ethics, Oxford: Blackwell, 2003