How The Covid-19 Pandemic Has Changed The Way We Date | Open Bed

Using online platforms to find potential relationship matches is nothing new, however, now that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic that forces everyone to stay home and remain distant from the rest of the world, using the internet to find love has shifted into something completely different than simply swiping and messaging people you find attractive.

Gender Inequality

Report Suggests Gender Equality Still a Century Away

While the push for women’s equality has made substantial progress over the last several years, a new report released by the World Economic Forum suggests that civilization is still a long way away from ensuring equal treatment of the sexes. Entitled the “Global Gap Gender Report 2020,” the report analyzes 153 countries and ranks them according to how successfully they enable gender parity. While the report found many areas in which societies have made progress, such as ensuring that girls have access to educational resources in developing countries, it also remarks that the pace of progress has been slow, as only a handful of countries in the world were determined to even approach reaching full gender equality. The report predicts the milestone of achieving global gender parity to be 99 years in the future, with the areas of Economic Participation and Political Empowerment being where the gender gap will likely take the longest to close.

The countries ranked as the most gender-equal include Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, as the Nordic countries have some of the most progressive gender policies in the world. Finland, for instance, recently elected the world’s youngest female leader, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and their Parliament contains an almost equal number of men and women. Finland and other Nordic countries also have policies like several months of paid parental leave, sophisticated sex education programs, and widespread access to abortion and birth control, which help to reduce the social gender gap in these countries. The World Economic Forum’s report focused on four main themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment; and the Nordic countries were found to perform among the best in these areas.

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On the other end of the list, Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen were ranked lowest. In these countries, according to the report, women’s rights are severely limited, particularly in the areas of “divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice and freedom of movement.” In some of these countries, women are almost entirely absent from political life, and the rates of literacy are much lower for women than for men as a result of unequal access to education. And when it comes to employment, women in these countries are routinely discriminated against, resulting in a low level of female involvement in the workforce.

Though different parts of the world are making progress in closing the gender gap at vastly different rates, the overall social gap between the genders is gradually narrowing, albeit very slowly. The report found that the world has almost achieved 100% gender parity in the categories of Health and Survival and Educational Attainment, but has only achieved 58% parity in Economic Participation and Opportunity and 25% parity in Political Empowerment, leaving the Global Gender Gap Index at a combined percentage of 69% of full parity between the sexes. The report stresses the urgency of increasing the pace of progress towards gender equality, saying, “without the equal inclusion of half the world’s talent, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution of society [or] grow our economies for greater shared prosperity… at the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept.”

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Even developed, industrialized countries like Japan display shocking deficiencies in the area of gender equality. Women in Japan, for instance, perform four times the amount of unpaid labor as men do, and despite government initiatives to expand female participation in the workplace, women often have difficulty advancing into senior work positions. There’s no question that the project of achieving gender equality is a difficult and complicated one, as gender issues stem from social, economic, and political factors, but countries like Finland show that with enough effort these barriers can in large part be overcome.

Doctor with Patient

Researchers Argue Sex and Gender Analysis Improves Science

It has long been understood in scientific circles that unconscious biases, particularly those relating to sex and gender, can have a negative impact on the objectivity of scientific findings. While the goal of science is to discover the truth in as objective a manner as possible, scientists are prone to the same unintentional, biased assumptions as anyone else, and the quality of scientific work can be affected. For instance, the appropriate dosage for a medicine may be devised with the assumption that the patient is male, leading to suboptimal dosage recommendations for women. As another example, safety equipment too can be designed with the physical concerns of men in mind, negatively affecting women who use the equipment. And as machine learning technologies advance, engineers are realizing that machine learning programs are capable of picking up on human beings’ unconscious biases and replicating them, perpetuating the problem.

In light of these realizations, much conversation has taken place regarding how best to correct for sex and gender bias in science. This concept is explored in an article posted in Nature entitled “Sex and gender analysis improves science and engineering.” The article’s authors argue that taking sex and gender into consideration while conducting science not only benefits less-advantaged individuals by recognizing the institutional challenges they face, but also improves the quality of science itself, as unconscious biases are identified and corrected. This approach, the authors claim, benefits multiple scientific fields, including medicine, artificial intelligence, and even climatology. 

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While many consider the terms synonyms, the researchers explain the difference between sex and gender, defining the former as including mainly biological attributes, whereas they define the latter as “psychological, social and cultural factors that shape attitudes, behaviours, stereotypes, technologies, and knowledge.” This distinction is important because sex and gender interact in complex ways; for instance, there exist physiological differences relating to the experience of pain between the sexes, and gender impacts how patients communicate pain with doctors and researchers. The researchers point out several improvements which have been made in this area over the past several decades; for instance, crash test dummies were originally based on a male physique, but now represent more diverse body shapes, allowing engineers to design vehicles that are safe for a larger number of people. However, they also point out areas for future improvement. 

As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that it doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

In their paper, the scientists focus on the surprising and complicated ways sex and gender manifest across a variety of disciplines, with the most focus placed on marine science, biomedicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The authors discuss how sex impacts science even in non-humans, as male and female marine life react differently to the effects of changing ocean temperatures, an observation which has generated insights about more accurately modelling the effects of climate change. In human beings, sex differences account for disparities in responses to various medicines, such as vasopressin and cancer immunotherapy, for biological reasons including differences in amounts of testosterone and estrogen and overall body composition.

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Perhaps more surprisingly, artificial intelligence is a field in which unconscious biases can make their way into technologies, unintentionally perpetuating cultural biases and stereotypes. For instance, advertising algorithms are more likely to automatically serve ads for high-paying jobs to men than to women, and automatic image captioning algorithms tend to misidentify pictures of men in kitchens as women. As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that artificial intelligence doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

The authors conclude by proposing solutions to many of the problems with sex and gender biases in science they identify. One suggestion is to foster greater interactions between the scientific community and the humanities, including social scientists. Allowing for interdepartmental conversations in this way helps scientists to learn about how biases emerge and affect human reasoning, and can incorporate this knowledge into their work. Additionally, the researchers advocate for greater transparency in scientists’ reporting by including variables relating to sex and gender in their data analyses.