Gender equality, the fifth of the sustainable development goals of the UN, is a base element for creating a comfortable, sustainable and wealthy world and being a fundamental human right. The word “gender” is not the same concept as the word “sex”. Sex refers to the biological distinction between men and women, and gender means the social status that is attributed to men and women. Gender roles can change according to religion, ethnicity, age and environment (Kumar Pathania 2017). The concept of gender equality is the name given to ensuring equal rights and freedoms regardless of gender in all social events such as gender ratio in companies, salary ratio, psychological and physical violence, right to vote and gender ratio in education (Shastri 2014). An important step for ensuring gender equality is women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment refers to the essentiality of a woman’s ability to have more authority in her life independently from her sex (Kumar Pathania 2017).

SDG-5 aims to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls, including ending violence, ensuring access to sexual health and reproductive rights and ending child marriage and sexual exploitation. Also, it aimed to increase the visibility of women in society and encourage women to appear in all spheres of life (Stuart and Woodroffe 2016). Even though gender inequality is decreasing, women still face various difficulties. Several examples can be given (United Nations 2018):

  • In 56 countries, 20% of 15–19-aged girls that have been in a sexual relationship have faced violence by their partners between the years 2015 and 2016. This violence was physical and/or sexual.

  • Around 2017, 21% of women aged 20–24 were married under 18 or were in an unauthorised union. In other words, approximately 650 million women were married as children.

  • In 30 countries, 1 in 3 15–19-year-old girls had been exposed to genital mutilation around 2017. In these 30 countries, mutilation implementation was typical.

  • In approximately 90 countries, women worked in nursing and as home labour without getting paid about three times more than men between 2000 and 2016.

  • On average, 46% of people from 34 countries said that men’s lives are better in their countries, while 15% said women’s lives are better. The majority of individuals polled in several countries from Europe and America believe that men have a better life than women in their nation. On the other hand, 75% of those polled think that women in their country will ultimately have the same rights as men, while 5% say that equality has already been reached (Horowitz and Fetterolf 2020).

  • One out of every three women over the age of 15 in Europe is exposed to physical and sexual violence. And one in two women is sexually harassed ( European Institute for Gender Equality 2021).

  • Women are paid 16% less than men (United Nations Women 2021).

The examples given above are only a tiny part of the inequality experienced. These inequalities have driven women to seek equality and effectively include gender equality among sustainable development goals. Taking actions to achieve the goals of SDG-5 is not only crucial for the related SDG itself, but also it helps to proceed in other SDGs. Although it does not seem so, progressing in gender-related issues serves, facilitates and expedites the improvements in some of the remaining main goals (IISD 2017). In this perspective, to achieve gender equality and women empowerment, six targets were determined by the UN. Figure 7.1 summarises the targets and indicators of SDG-5.

Fig. 7.1
figure 1

Targets and indicators of SDG-5. (United Nations 2021)

Environmental policy is inextricably related to sustainable development goals, and it’s hard to conceive sustainable development goals without modern digital technology. Emerging technologies are increasingly essential instruments for achieving a balance of low environmental impact and high performance (Мачкасова 2020). Sustainable development cannot be accomplished unless gender equality is ensured. However, gender inequality is a reality that exists almost everywhere globally. Therefore, it is a possible and sad event that today’s people are exposed to injustice and discrimination because their genders are different. In such a situation, gender equality, which aims to end discrimination between the sexes, is very important to us. Since women and girls make up approximately half of the world’s population, they are potentially half its total potential. However, gender inequality still exists today and undermines the development of society (United Nations 2021).

First of all, gender equality is a human right, and all women and girls should have the same rights and lives as men. Gender equality is a basic human right and indispensable for a peaceful and sustainable world. Despite such goals, sexism and discrimination persist. For example, one in five women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 are exposed to sexual or physical violence by someone else (United Nations 2021). Also, in many countries, the sexes are segregated, such that women are denied inheritance and land ownership (Shi et al. 2019). In addition to this, women and girls are exposed to all kinds of violence and are subjected to all sorts of injustices in business and social life. Considering all these, ending gender inequality has a crucial place for the development of humanity. Therefore, gender equality, the fifth goal of sustainable development, representing equality for women and men everywhere and in all fields according to their needs, is the number one method of eliminating tyranny against people’s gender (Murat 2017). During the last 20 years, gender equality has been the main study area for UNDP. According to statistics of UNDP, today more girls continue to a school than 15 years ago. However, in some areas, this sexual violence and discrimination are still in progress even by the governments. In addition to all these discriminations (salary inequality, job inequality or others), climate change, natural disasters and migrations affect women and children negatively much more in many ways as they are more prone to adverse conditions (United Nations Development Programme 2021).

Achieving SDG-5’s goal will lead to equal and quality access to education for both women and girls who cannot reach education because of being exposed to discrimination and completing one of the goals of quality education (SDG-4). Abolishing discrimination against women and girls also helps achieve goals of reduced inequalities (SDG-10) by supporting their participation in the elections, decent work and economic growth (SDG-8) by supporting their access to the labour market and providing them decent work opportunities to survive and peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG-16) by obtaining more peaceful and connected societies (United Nations 2018). In short, if the SDG-5 goals are achieved, then they will affect the other sustainable development goals of the UN.

The other important side of SDG-5 is the discrimination of women in labour. According to UN data, one of every four people in parliament is a woman. When looking at the inequality between the ages of 25 and 34, women in this age group have extreme poverty, 25% more than men. A woman must work three times more to get the same salary as a man. The difference in labour force participation between 25 and 54 is 31% in the last 20 years. Women are paid 16% less than men, and only one in four managers is a woman. Looking at young people between the ages of 15 and 24, while illiteracy is 14%, it is 31% for women. While 39% of women work as agricultural workers, only 14% own land. Forty percent of women do not trust the justice system and are afraid of its vulnerabilities. One hundred ninety million women wanted to avoid pregnancy; however, they could not find a way for it in 2019 (United Nations Women 2021).

Gender equality is an indicator of success in different fields, for example, in the economy, health, safety, business, racial equality, reducing poverty and bringing peace. Therefore, SDG-5 is a method to ensure gender equality in this regard. There are several specific field examples that SDG-5 affects:

  • Moreover, gender inequality has severe consequences during natural disasters. Experts explored how gender disparity contributes to death and damage at the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction. Climate change, which increases the severity of natural disasters, also affects gender equality, looking at the results of other studies, and puts female individuals in even more poor conditions. Women can have a more decisive part in their own protection when a gender viewpoint is included in discussions (Human Rights Careers 2020). Unequal societies have fewer social and emotional bonds. High rates of non-social harmful behaviour and violence are observed in these countries. In gender-equal countries, the situation is the opposite, where people are cohesive. People in these countries are healthier and have better life conditions (Victorian Government Directory 2021).

  • Race equality and gender equality are inextricably related. Race plays a significant part in issues such as the gender pay gap. Women of colour, Hispanic women and native women have fewer wages than white and Asian women. Black women in the USA have a higher death rate for pregnancy-related reasons. When gender equality takes race into account, it also enhances racial equality (Victorian Government Directory 2021).

  • The destitution level of young females has been detected to be the highest. As the ages of men and women get older, the poverty gap between men and women also widens. Some of the apparent reasons behind this are the fact that women quit their jobs after marriage and that women are not given the same educational opportunities and career prospects as men. Due to gender inequality, girls are trapped in poverty. However, better education, health and career opportunities can enable a girl to evolve into the best version of herself. As a result, focusing on decreasing gender inequality is a long-term, high-impact method to diminish poverty (Human Rights Careers 2020).

While achieving the goals for a sustainable future, SDG-5 will be one of the building blocks of this path. So, taking actions to accomplish the goals of SDG-5 is not only crucial for the related SDG itself, but also it helps to proceed in other SDGs as mentioned above. Although it does not seem so, progressing in gender-related issues serves, facilitates and expedites the improvements in some of the remaining main goals (IISD 2017). According to the report published by the European Institute for Gender Equality, abbreviated as EIGE, even in the continent that contains some of the most developed countries in the world, that is, Europe, SDG-5 could not progress appreciably (Barbieri et al. 2020). If we look at the larger framework, it is expected that, by 2030, 169 targets which correspond to 17 goals will not be successfully met. Prioritising certain goals, in particular SDG-5, is one possible attitude to take one step forward in speeding up completing the targets at the regional, national and mondial levels. As it can be seen from the previously mentioned topic above, there is no doubt that one of the most inclusive and universal goals is gender equality. Therefore, transforming the SDG-5 into the focal point of the progress plans, both intellectually and officially, can help move forward in the 2030 agenda and shape the new route map after 2030 accordingly (Hepp et al. 2019). To exemplify the bond of SDG-5 with other SDG, combinations between SDG-5 (Gender Equality) and SDG-16 (Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions) have emerged in recent years, and achieving gender equality is considered to be instrumental in progress as countries improve their ability to provide stable governments or vice versa. In any case, such efforts will have to be greatly increased in the future in terms of achieving the SDGs, including the Paris Climate Accord and lengthy gender equality, in these specific situations (Kroll et al. 2019).

In addition, ensuring gender equality, especially in education, will also contribute to the future economically. According to a study that predicts economic growth, if women receive education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the employment rate is expected to grow by 0.5–0.8% until 2030. This growth is expected to increase to 2.5% by 2050 (“Economic Benefits of Gender Equality in the EU”, 2021). However, unfortunately, in countries like Nigeria awareness of gender equality is not provided in education. Thus, there can be no development for the future. Since teachers do not have sufficient knowledge about gender equality, they cannot inform people about it both inside and outside the school. It will be tough to build a country based on gender equality if this gap is not filled with a significant gender equality gap. It is challenging to integrate gender equality projects in an environment with no infrastructure. In this respect, insufficient knowledge about gender equality will cause future generations to be unaware of this issue.

There are a lot of differences between genders, and these differences reflect consumption and production activities (Roushdy 2004). Women’s reliance on money in the family increases spending and development, which is beneficial for all family members (Schady and Rosero 2008; Rubalcava et al. 2009). A woman can be seen in the business world and be in the role of a worker or an entrepreneur. However, inequalities can create gaps in women’s lives, such as entering a new workplace, preventing them from gaining professional competence (BarNir 2012) or having a role in work. Even in the same job, women receive 86% of men’s salary in public institutions and 76% in the private sector, which causes difficulties in their careers (Shi et al. 2019). Even for women entrepreneurs, these situations are not different (Fairlie and Robb 2009). When looking at finance performance, the ideas and products of women entrepreneurs are not worse than male entrepreneurs. However, establishments where women entrepreneurs run businesses raise fewer financial resources (Demartini 2019). This leads to the gender employment gap, and if this gap is closed, GDP will increase by 11% (Victorian Government Directory 2021).

Women’s influence extends beyond businesses and organisations. As stated in the studies, the economy benefits from improving women’s economic engagement. If the average wages of women living in OECD countries were raised to the current Swedish level, GDP would increase by about $6 trillion. Thus, it is obvious that the pay gap between genders is quite harmful to the economy (Human Rights Careers 2020). As it was mentioned as an example above, in Australia’s GDP, enterprises, where at least three out of ten people in the management of the company staff are women, are 15% more profitable. If the number of men and women entering the workforce from higher education is equalised, the Australian economy will benefit eight billion dollars. In Victoria, police spend 2 out of 5 h dealing with issues related to family violence, costing more than $3.4 billion annually in financial terms. In Australia, the budget for unpaid care is six times higher than the budget for paid care, and the majority of those who do these unpaid care jobs are women (Victorian Government Directory 2021).

In short, the goal of SDG-5 is about empowering women’s economic status and finance. Steps were taken to achieve this goal and accelerate the progress in no poverty (SDG-1) to reduce the number of women who are having a hard time finding a job to live by promoting a prominent endorsement for their economic freedom and rights. Thus, this ensures the ideas that were mentioned above about poverty. Additionally, creating economic opportunities and amenities for women results in sustainable industrial development, which is one of the targets of industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG-9) (UN Women 2018). Thus, it is concluded that gender equality affects every field, and it will lead to development, especially in the economy.

7.1 Companies and Use Cases

Table 7.1 presents the business models of 16 companies and use cases that employ emerging technologies and create value in SDG-5. We should highlight that one use case can be related to more than one SDG and it can make use of multiple emerging technologies. In the left column, we present the company name, the origin country, related SDGs and emerging technologies that are included. The companies and use cases are listed alphabetically.Footnote 1

Table 7.1 Companies and use cases in SDG-5