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Global Support for Gender Equality Rises, But Challenges Remain

Source: Pew Research Center

Support for gender equality increased in many large nations in 2020, with a median of 94% of those in surveyed countries agreeing that gender equality is important to have where they live. There is also a large sense of worldwide optimism for the future of gender equality, with a median of 75% of those in surveyed countries holding this view, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2020.

However, Pew’s research also found that women are less optimistic than men are about the future of gender equality. Out of the 34 countries surveyed, a majority of the public believe that men have a better chance at getting higher paying jobs than women do, as well as a more opportunities to serve in a leadership role in their communities. A median of 46% of those surveyed across the countries also believe that men have “a better life” in their countries than women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a negative impact on efforts to achieve gender equality — especially in the workplace. As 2021 approaches, many question what long-term effects the pandemic will have on women’s careers as they face setbacks in their incomes and career progression due to childcare arrangements.

Less-Educated Women Left the Workforce During the Pandemic

There are 1.3% less women aged 25 or older in the workforce, and those with high-school degrees were more likely to leave the workforce than their college-graduate counterparts. Compared to their male counterparts — who saw a 1.8% decrease in the workforce — there are 6% less high-school-educated working women in 2021 compared to 2019. The difference is more drastic when comparing women and men who are not high school graduates, which saw a 12.8% and 4.9% decrease, respectively.

The pandemic affected the workforce differently depending on people’s gender and education status, according to new research from Pew. In 2021, the percentage of women aged 25 or older in the workforce dropped by 1.3% compared to 2019’s numbers, and those with high-school degrees were more likely to leave the workforce than their college-graduate counterparts.

In 2021, the percentage of high-school-educated women in the workforce dropped by 6% compared to 2019. Their male counterparts saw just a 1.8% decrease in the workforce. The difference is even more drastic for those who are not high school graduates: In this category, there are 4.9% fewer men and 12.8% fewer women in the workforce.

The difference may be explained by the gender balance in industries affected by the pandemic. The health-care industry, for instance, is 60% women, and many workers are dealing with burnout after two years under stress. The same gender imbalance can be found in the food preparation and personal service occupations, per Pew.

Universities See 1 Million Student Decline Since Start of Pandemic in US

Higher education enrollment in the United States fell a further 2.7% in 2021, according to new estimates by The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This follows a 2.5% drop from the preceding fall. In total, 938,000 fewer students have enrolled in colleges since the fall of 2019, before the pandemic, the center estimates.

Private for-profit four-year colleges saw the biggest drop, with 11% less students enrolling in 2021. Followed by community colleges (-3.4%) and public four-year colleges (-3.8%). Private nonprofit colleges were least impacted, with a 1.5% decrease.

The trend in college enrollment indicates more are inclined to join the labor market directly — taking minimum-wage jobs in part because rates have risen under increasing pressure and a competitive job market. Even more are turning toward trade schools in lieu of traditional universities. This also comes at a time when universities are navigating the COVID-19 landscape, with many courses shifting toward remote instruction.

Electric Autonomous Vehicles Have Huge Potential for the Freight Industry

Autonomous vehicles have come a long way since 1925, when the first radio-controlled car was driven around Manhattan’s streets, without anyone at the steering wheel. 

Last year, autonomous vehicles hit the roads in a myriad of ways. Walmart deployed fully driverless trucks to transport groceries between stores in Arkansas, while autonomous vehicle companies raised an average of $650 million for 2021. Amazon acquired several autonomous vehicle companies, pledging to buy 1,000 autonomous trucks in the process. 

With heavy duty vehicles accounting for about 19% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, according to a report by Marsh McLennan, the next phase of innovation for AVs is electrification, and the freight industry is expected to be among the first to adopt electric AVs (E-AVs). E-AVs will offer benefits such as enhanced sustainability, improved safety and reduced costs. The report also demonstrates how E-AVs compound technological benefits by facilitating data collection to develop safer business models. 

Big Tech Invests in Cybersecurity

The top five tech companies are investing in cybersecurity to bolster their cloud dominance, according to a new report by CBInsights. The research firm found that Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple (MAGMA) invested over $2 trillion in cybersecurity companies last year.

The rise in investment comes as cybercrime and ransom attacks hit a record level in 2021. In the United States, ransomware caused government services in Maryland and Atlanta to shut down for days at a time. In the private sector, Guy Carpenter estimates that just 42% of private businesses invest in cyber products, putting the almost $21 trillion in intangible assets of the Fortune 500 at risk.

The rise in investment by MAGMA is a bid to lure users onto the cloud. AWS, owned by Amazon, Azure, owned by Microsoft, and Google Cloud Platform are the most popular cloud platforms and boast a myriad of cybersecurity features. Meta and Apple, meanwhile, are pivoting their platforms to be more privacy-focused given the mistrust of data management by the public and the increasing risk of apps becoming a vector for cyber crime.

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