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Let’s See Equality Differently

March 12, 2019

Women and men deserve equal treatment under the law and equal opportunities to succeed in life.

And yet that doesn’t mean we are all the same. People come in different shapes and sizes. They possess different abilities and overcome different challenges.

Some differences are big. Other differences are less obvious, such as those that start with the sex-specific chromosomes inside all of our cells. And an individual’s self-representation exists along a continuum, shaped by that person’s biology, environment, and experience.

What we’re learning is: Difference just means different. Two roads can lead to the same destination. Or even to two different, but equally nice destinations.

However, we are just beginning to understand how the differences that generally exist between and among populations of women and men affect our biology and behavior.

For example, we know that:

  • Half of all women over the age of 50 who have osteoporosis will break a bone, and 20 percent of postmenopausal women with hip fractures die within a year.
  • Among Americans with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, 75 percent are women.
  • Of the 5.3 million Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease, almost 2/3 are women.
  • Depression is more common in women than men and is one of the greatest causes of disability for women worldwide.
  • If a woman drinks the same exact amount of alcohol as a man, she will likely become more intoxicated (and more rapidly), even if they weigh the same.

But there is so much more we don’t know. Public support of Women’s Health Research at Yale ensures that essential research on women’s health and on sex and gender differences in health that benefit everyone continues, leading to wiser health policies and practices. We need to advance this life-saving progress and continue to:

  • fund studies that close the gap in knowledge that has widened over decades,
  • train the next generation of scientists to ensure that health research benefits our children and grandchildren, and
  • expand our efforts to share our findings so the public is informed when making health decisions.

Because women and men are not identical. And that can make a difference in how we detect and treat diseases and conditions that may affect women and men differently.

We don’t need to fear the things that make us unique. And we don’t know what we don’t study.

Submitted by Carissa R Violante on March 12, 2019