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Paragraph 161 – Beijing Platform for Action


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/10/04

161. For those women in paid work, many experience obstacles that prevent them from achieving their potential. While some are increasingly found in lower levels of management, attitudinal discrimination often prevents them from being promoted further. The experience of sexual harassment is an affront to a worker’s dignity and prevents women from making a contribution commensurate with their abilities. The lack of a family-friendly work environment, including a lack of appropriate and affordable child care, and inflexible working hours further prevent women from achieving their full potential.

Beijing Declaration (1995)

Paragraph 161 of the Beijing Declaration seems to shift to the more empirical arenas of paid work compared to the more speculative areas, self-analysis collected in large quantities, of unpaid work. It is more difficult to quantify who is doing what work, how much, so how much more and in what ways and in what areas between men and women.

This kind of question has been asked for several decades now. This was way back in the Stone Age of 1995, mind you. These empirical arenas are emphasizing “obstacles that prevent them from achieving their potential.” The definition of “potential” is an amorphous term, akin to wellbeing, flourishing, or eudaimonia. Every woman’s life and experience, talents, personalities, and proclivities, are different.

It is, in this sense, a note on the complexity of each and every person, as with every woman, and the ways in which a pluck on one string can create effects in different parts of the weave. It’s more an individuation statement generically, as in whatever a person’s upper limits of flourishing becomes their fulfilled potential, or not.

Lower levels of management in 1995 for women, as in hirings and promotions into, were lower. This may still be the case, but, in fact, the educational trends promote the idea of women dominating the lower managerial levels of businesses and corporations.

In addition, a perennial barrier is the attitudes about women within the workplace. Some by men; others by women. Some women in higher positions may not see women’s full place in the lower managerial or higher ranks of societal administrative control. Men could see the same. Some could be misogynistic in their orientation and questioning women in the hiring process about their plans, livelihoods, and like, in which particularized aspects of women’s lives become barriers to their advancement affected by the prevailing attitudes, i.e., the aforementioned “attitudinal discrimination.”

These can ‘prevent them from promotions further in the organizational hierarchies.” Other negative experiences without a formal movement at the time included sexual harassment. Women’s experience of dignity is noteworthy. Many societies have not enshrined women’s dignity as something inhered in women, but as in relation to the husband, the family, or the community.

The protection from decimating experiences by and for women is newer. The prior generations, even before 1995, did not have Me Too, Times Up, or other movements to combat sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape in professional circumstances in which their naivete or power-differentials were taken advantage of, in life-destroying experiences.

These violations of the personal boundaries and intrusions on the bodies of women in sexual harassment are properly seen as “an affront,” not only to a “worker’s dignity,” but also to a woman’s life story. It’s an enforced indignity from which she cannot escape. It’s life; it’s pain. It makes life pain, in other words.

To quote the World Health Organization on the consequences to women’s health from violence:

Intimate partner (physical, sexual and emotional) and sexual violence cause serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for women. They also affect their children, and lead to high social and economic costs for women, their families and societies. Such violence can…

  • …These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. The 2013 analysis found that women who have experienced intimate partner violence were almost twice as likely to experience depression and problem drinking.
  • Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.
  • Sexual violence, particularly during childhood, can lead to increased smoking, drug and alcohol misuse, and risky sexual behaviours in later life. It is also associated with perpetration of violence (for males) and being a victim of violence (for females).

These can be translated into the work place. When violence, including sexual harassment, is carried out on the job against women, they will experience many of these effects, which, in turn, make the resultant work place toxic, the home life affected. If a woman has children, these can incur costs in the ability of the woman to parent effectively – let alone attend to self-care.

These economic costs on the job become further degradation. The gap in pay has been estimated from 5 cents away on every dollar (0.95 for women versus 1.00 for men) to somewhere in the 70 cent or 80 cent range for every dollar. The answer depends on the economic institute, the economist, the political orientation referenced, or the gender theorist considered. The answers do vary widely, but, as a fundamental finding, a gap exists; the real disagreements exist on precise reasons and, in particular, the accumulative contributory gap for all of them together. Is it 5%, 20%, 30%? We don’t know. It’s above 60% and below parity. That’s what seems better known than not known.

Some of the other issues creating some problems for the inclusion of women in the workplaces, at the time, impacting women’s economic livelihood’s and financial independence included a “family-friendly work environment” in which women’s, often, disproportionate caretaking responsibilities without workplace supports prevents, stops, or slows career progression or the ease of entry into particular jobs for women compared to men.

The specifics of the commentary about “appropriate and affordable child care” seem important for consideration here. In that, many of the stipulations within the Beijing Declaration leave the general and moderately concrete statements as parts of the paragraphs, while, in general, these provide guidelines and then more precise stipulations left to the Member States to enact who have chosen to take part in the global action plan following from the Beijing Declaration.

The child care aspect cannot be ignored, because future generations will come one way or another. However, as we can note, the caretaking responsibilities fall far more on the women than on the men, which impacts women’s “achieving their full potential” and limiting their fulfillment possibilities via “inflexible working hours” as the norm in business culture.

(Updated 2020-09-27, only use the updated listing, please) Not all nations, organizations, societies, or individuals accept the proposals of the United Nations; one can find similar statements in other documents, conventions, declarations and so on, with the subsequent statements of equality or women’s rights, and the important days and campaigns devoted to the rights of women and girls too:


Strategic Aims

Celebratory Days

Guidelines and Campaigns

Women and Men Women’s Rights Campaigners


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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