The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is the Bridge To Achieve Gender Equality

There is an urgent need to  bridge the gap in gender equality as we enter the future of tech-based industrial revolutions, says Brian Malika

Before the start of the first industrial revolution around 1760, humans were known to use basic weapons for hunting, basic techniques for fishing, and their hands to plant and harvest. During the time, society was often portrayed as a period of equal struggle for all in history books. However, this was not the case. There was a form of gender-based stratification that positioned women and girls as a lower class than men. 

Industrial Revolution and Gender Roles

Women, girls, and even children were classified as property alongside cattle. The women did the most challenging jobs with their bare hands, lacked the right to consent, and could not decide their future or that of society. In short, the well-being of women was never considered before the first industrial revolution.

At the onset of the 1760s, a revolution occurred that saw human beings use water and steam to mechanize farm production. The spinning jenny was also invented in the era, transforming the textile and cloth industry. Many other developments happened in iron processing, making smelting much easier. This led to accelerated mass production and increased economic growth in some parts of the world.

Though the first industrial revolution advanced human civilization, it also set the stage for social injustices by enabling the mechanisation of farming. This allowed for the acquisition and cultivation of large land areas efficiently.

On the contrary, women and girls who offered unpaid hard labour were laid off with no alternative income source. They were at the mercy of men who benefited from huge profits and territories.

Indeed, the first industrial revolution strengthened economies and strengthened men (at the expense of women and girls ). From around 1870 to 1914, the Second Industrial Revolution enabled the invention of modern energy sources like electricity, phasing out the dependence on steam water. This era saw developments in lightbulbs, telephones, air brakes, aeroplanes, and refineries, among other machines and led to increased mobility for men due to the development of automobiles. 

During the First World War,  women were mostly employed in white-collar jobs such as clerical work in factories as men were primarily involved in fighting wars.

Gender and Development in the Information Age

Research shows that women and girls were denied access to higher-paying jobs and the right to vote or hold leadership positions. Despite these difficult times, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, a Polish-French physicist and chemist became the first woman to receive a Nobel prize  and the only woman to receive two Nobel prizes. 

After the two world wars, we entered the 1950s. The world ushered in the third industrial revolution. It was a period when the first computers were developed, and automated communication and transport systems were coupled with the Internet.

Women-led movements demanded their space in social, economic, and political spheres in a more organized and conscious manner, leading to significant accomplishments.

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman Prime Minister by leading Sri Lanka in modern times. Indira Gandhi became India’s first and only female prime minister in 1966. Margret Thatcher clinched the U.K. Prime Minister position between 1979 and 1990, thus setting the pace as the first woman to lead a big country globally.

In 1995, the World Conference on Women occurred in Beijing, China. Activists gathered to create a legal framework for achieving gender equality in socio-economic and political areas. This led to a call for gender mainstreaming in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Other notable gains for women and girls in this era include more women leading countries, Wangari Mathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala receiving a Nobel Peace Prize at 17, and Katie Bouman developing an algorithm for imaging black holes.

On the downside, the HIV pandemic was felt more common among women and girls due to gender inequalities. As a result, this group recorded more infections and was unable to cope socially.

Pandemic and Women in Development

The current time defines the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this era where the internet is interlinked and embedded in our lives. Less than two percent women-led tech start-ups receive investor funding. 50 percent of women needed more time to resume their regular jobs after COVID-19, causing setbacks in gender equality. Only 12.8 percent women own farming land across the globe making it difficult for them to influence agricultural production for a very long time . 

Today, there is an urgent need to bridge the gap in gender equality as we enter the future of tech-based industrial revolutions. Women and girls need to feel safe both online and offline. They should be able to use their phones to report instances of gender-based violence directly. Women participation should be welcomed in decision-making spaces and the equal rights and opportunities of women and girls to learn, speak up, access essential services, grow their enterprises, and obtain financial products must be supported by technology.


  • Brian Malika

    Brian Malika is the Founder of One More Percent, a grassroots movement that advocates for climate action, tech rights, and inclusion. He believes that to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within the next few years; we must deliberately amplify the voices of women, girls, persons with disabilities, and gender minorities on important issues like climate action, digital rights, and gender equality.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is the Bridge To Achieve Gender Equality

by Brian Malika Reading time: 3 min