It’s Women’s Equality Day and We Have More Work To Do
It’s Women’s Equality Day in the United States of America, a day when we acknowledge the adoption of the 19th Amendment. In 1920, the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th Amendment and gave women the right to vote. The right to vote is considered an important marker on the road to gender equality. However, having the right to vote is not the same as being equal.* When we discuss gender equality, we need to consider other laws, social policies, political and economic participation, as well as everyday norms and customs that control our behavior.
Can we celebrate women’s equality or do we have more work to do?
I reviewed two well-known studies of women’s equality: Equal Measures 2030 and the World Economic Forum 2018 Global Gender Gap Report. Where do we rank in the data from these two global reports?
How Does the United States Measure Up on Measures of Women’s Equality?
The 2019 Equal Measures 2030 study reports on the sustainable development goals established by the United Nations. It includes 51 indicators and examines 129 countries across all regions of the world.
The United States ranked 28 of 129 countries on the Global Index.
- While no country scored 90 or above on the Index (which would be a score of “excellent”), the United States received a score of 77.6 (which is considered “fair.”)
- The average Regional Index for North America and Europe was 79.1 right on the margin of “fair” and “good” – we’re still below that.
- See the report for a full discussion of the measures used: https://data.em2030.org/2019-global-report/.
The World Economic Forum is an international organization for public-private cooperation. Its governing body includes representatives from business, political, academia, and civil society. The World Economic Forum 2018 Global Gender Gap Report collected data on 149 countries to measure the gender gap on four indices: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
The United States ranked 51 of 149 countries on the Global Gender Gap Score.
- With the highest possible score of 1.0—which indicates gender parity—the U.S. scored .720. In other words, the United States has closed exactly 72% of its overall gender gap, a decrease of 2% since 2015.
- You can download the report here: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2018.
After reviewing these and several other reports, assessing the many different measures, and mulling over my own experiences and those shared with me by other women, I created an inventory of twenty-one indicators of women’s inequality in recognition of Women’s Equality Day.
21 Signs That Women Are Not Equal
- Women do most of the childcare and housework even when both they and their male partners work full-time.
- Health insurance does not cover family planning and women’s reproductive health care.
- Women have limited or no legal access to abortion.
- Despite laws affirming equal pay, women get paid less than men for the same work.
- Women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math careers because of gender bias (see https://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/)
- Sex trafficking of children and women is an unsolved societal problem.
- Child pornography, a form of sexual exploitation of children, is easily available.
- Fathers do not have paid parental leave.
- Women worry about their personal safety.
- Thirty percent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/09/08/nearly-a-third-of-u-s-women-have-experienced-domestic-violence/?noredirect=on
- 1 in 5 women have been raped. https://ncadv.org/statistics
- Women are underrepresented as judges in the highest courts in the legal system.
- Women are underrepresented in CEO and other C-level positions.
- There has never been a female President.
- When you talk about the glass ceiling, everyone knows what you mean.
- The phrase “toxic masculinity” is part of the popular lexicon.
- Outspoken women are called pushy while men are called assertive.
- Women athletes in every sport earn less than men.
- Women, not men, are the unpaid caregivers for children and the elderly.
- Women are more likely to be poor than men. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2008/10/08/5103/the-straight-facts-on-women-in-poverty/
- The president of the country is a misogynist.
It’s 2019 and we must admit our failure to achieve gender equality. If we can admit failure, then we can realistically look at what work remains to be done to improve women’s health, safety, standards of living, employment, civic participation, and personal freedom.
What does gender equality mean to you? What indicators are missing from my list that you would include on your list? Is gender equality only a woman’s issue? Do you believe that when women are equal the entire society benefits? Please share your opinion below (in the Comments section). Thank you!
*In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed and guaranteed non-white men and freed male slaves the right to vote. But Southern states suppressed the voting rights of black and poor white voters through Jim Crow Laws. Voter suppression continues for non-white and poor communities.