Addressing Gender Inequalities of Education Enhanced By COVID-19 and Highlighting NATO’s Present Commitments toward Gender Equality through Education

By Danielle McDonald

We are living in a time in which women’s rights around the world are distinguishable, advocated for, and established with much notable acceleration. While making progress, there are still major gaps, prominently in educational attainment at all levels. Education is one of the most fundamental components of a society. Thus, it is critical to ensure that future generations of females have equal access to education.

We must stop and ask ourselves, “What will roundtable discussions look like absent of women and their contributions?” Indeed, we can recognize advancements already made for women’s equality in education and other sectors. However, it is pertinent to recognize that no country has yet to achieve gender equality, specifically in the education sector. [1] A grave consequence of education inequality for females is that global women’s income is 23% lower than men’s. [2] Moreover, women fill a little less than a quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide.[3]

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities that women face by the mere distinction of their sex are intensifying and require immediate attention. Education affecting the workplace is only part of the detriment society will face if countries do not take the initiative to address this problem. 

COVID-19 Impacts 

The COVID-19 global pandemic has sparked new concerns of inequality and has intensified existing ones for women and girls all over the world. To a great extent, the problem of inaccessible education is prone to have lasting effects that can be felt by future generations. Projections by the World Bank indicate that female’s return to school at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels were of high expectancy, but COVID-19 has slowed this progress down. [4] Effects that stem from this insecurity become engulfed into social, economic, and political life which are already affected by gender inequality.

NATO’S Implications to Ensure Future Generations’ Education Equality

NATO recognizes the importance and impact of education and the lack thereof, and how it can culminate security concerns for states. As part of NATO 2030, it acknowledges the significance of the role that younger generations play in achieving a stronger, unified global approach to allied partnerships. In 2020, NATO hosted its first Youth Summit encouraging innovative youth leadership in various disciplines. This summit named a global, diverse group of fourteen professionals of which nine of them are females. [5] In recent decades, NATO adjusted its focus to the special needs of its members and identified that education is a major component that safeguards the success of its political and security promises. For more than twenty years, institutes for research and training have been dedicated to educational reform ensuring that gender perspectives are integrated into all criteria and procedures. [6] There is also much equality shown at the core of NATO through the appointment of ten experts – five females and five males – tasked with providing advice to NATO 2030. In an effort to create a more inclusive environment in education and labor force, NATO’s zero-tolerance approach to gender-based exploitation and abuse is exemplary. [7]

How can NATO members mitigate gender disparities relating to education inequality?

In an effort to be proactive and consistent with NATO 2030 goals and initiatives, alliance members can ensure that all policies are gender inclusive. Many plans concerning COVID-19, economic aid, policies and education require dire attention to socio-economic barriers that disadvantage women and girls. By being intentional to mitigate this problem and its effects, we all can work to ensure a more secure economy, peaceful political arena, and a thriving society.

It is essential that all members of NATO do their part to place women and girls’ rights, inclusion, and perspectives at the forefront if an impactful change is going to be made.