Where Is It Best to Be a Woman? Not the U.S.
I’ve never been overly patriotic. There are no American flags hanging in my room and even if I had snagged the athletic gene in my family, I still wouldn’t wake up at 5 am twice a week for ROTC. I don’t believe like some that the U.S. is “the best country in the world,” yet I’ve always felt that as an American, I am offered more freedoms and opportunities than almost any other country’s citizens.
So, I was surprised by the news this week that America ranks nineteenth in gender equality. In other words, based on factors including salary equality, education, political representation and life expectancy, the Global Gender Gap Report determined that women in eighteen countries come out ahead of us American females.
I was disappointed, but maybe I should have been happy- nineteen is a big improvement from 31st last year, and 27th the year before.
Nineteenth out of 134 countries really isn’t terrible…but it isn’t exactly wonderful either. In a high school graduating class, the land of the free and the home of the brave wouldn’t have even received Honors. Iceland would be the valedictorian of woman’s equality, but I don’t suggest a mass exodus of down-stuffed-parka-wearing women to the Nordic country. (I spent one shivering winter in Chicago and that was enough for me.) Even there, women don’t have it as great as men.
Many left dateless on the 60:40 male to female campuses won’t be surprised that the U.S. is one of twenty-two countries that offers equal education attainment for men and women. America is also near the top of economic participation and opportunity (number 6), an encouraging find as we graduate and join the workforce. In fact, in the U.S., women are ahead of men as professional and technical workers.
What screws us over, then, is the subindex category “political empowerment.” Now I know we’ve never had a female president, but there are women politicians out there. Look at our Secretary of State! And all those Congresswomen, like Olympia Snowe! And Barbara Boxer! And… others? (I’m realizing now how many more male than female politicians I can name.)
America is 40th in this category, after some countries not particularly known for their human rights, like Argentina, Cuba and Uganda. We’ll never improve our equality ranking if we keep electing so many more male than female politicians. Beyond the obvious gender gap this creates, there’s also the issue that policy concerning women’s right will be drafted, debated and passed by a testosterone driven government. We don’t get to make the rules that concern us.
I think the best way to kick Iceland off it’s glacial throne is by supporting as many female candidates as we can, even if they’re not running in our districts, and maybe even running for office ourselves one day.
What do you think? How can we decrease the gender gap in America?