US Olympic Women #1! US Women? #28

DSC02229On August 26th, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was certified as law, granting women the right to vote throughout the country. In commemoration of this important day, every US President since 1972 has proclaimed August 26th as Women’s Equality Day, not as a celebration of equality achieved, but in recognition of the need to continue to work towards greater gender parity. Because whether or not people want to believe it, there is not a single country in the world that has achieved true gender equality. Not one. How do I know this? The research says so.

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published its annual Global Gender Gap Report, which analyzes a country’s gender gap in four main indexes: education, health, political representation, and economic participation. The latest report, published in 2015, ranked 145 countries on a scale of 0.00 (inequality) to 1.00 (equality), with Iceland topping the list at 0.881 and Yemen in last place at 0.484. The United States was ranked 28th (a drop from 20th in 2014), just below Mozambique, and well below developing countries such as Rwanda, the Philippines, and Namibia. All of the statistics, data, and research that are used to compile this report can be found on the World Economic Forum’s website.

When looking at the country profile of the United States, it’s clear that the political representation score is where progress is needed most. In 2015, the United States scored just 0.162 out of 1.00, which is good enough for 72nd among the countries ranked. The scores for women in parliament and women in ministerial positions are slightly better at 0.24 and 0.35 respectively, but the fact that the US has had no female head of state in the past 50 years (or ever), registers as a 0.00, thereby dragging the overall score down with it.

Where the US ranks the best in terms of other countries is in the economic participation and opportunity index, where a score of 0.826 lands the US at 6th in the world, but in terms of individual scores, the US is doing well with 0.975 for the health and survival index and 0.999 for the educational attainment index. Perhaps surprisingly, these higher scores are only good enough for 64th and 40th in the world respectively, indicating just how many countries are near or past equality when it comes to health and education.

2015 marked the 10th edition of this annual report, which means that we now have a decade worth of research and data to analyze in terms of progress around the world, and the good news is that progress is being made. Over the past 10 years, fully 94% of the 109 countries that have been tracked since 2006 have made progress towards gender equality, with the health and education indexes nearing equality, and political representation making the largest gain from 14% in 2006 to 24% in 2015. Overall, the world is moving in the right direction, the just direction, but we’re not there yet.

This will come as no shock to anyone who has read the average Youtube comments thread, but the idea that we still need a Women’s Equality Day will enrage a certain subset of the Internet to a baffling degree. I often write about gender equality issues; always in the most respectful way I possibly can, and the attacks can be truly shocking. Efforts to lift up women – to ensure that they have the access and resources they need to thrive – does not equal pushing down men. I have been called a “reverse sexist” more than a few times in the comments section to other posts, so allow me to provide the proper definition. Sexism is defined as discrimination based on a person’s gender, which means sexism affects both men and women.

I believe that greater gender equality will benefit both men and women, because the full participation of women in all aspects of society will, as the research shows, have broad based positive economic and social results. There are literally hundreds of studies that attest to this. If you can cite any evidence to the contrary, please feel free to share. Seriously, share it. Furthermore, LinkedIn is primarily a social network for business oriented people, and make no mistake, gender inequality is a huge business issue. Once again, check out the research if you don’t believe me.

So what might be different for a country and for the people that live in that country when it not only reaches but sustains gender parity? Furthermore, what might be different when not only one country in the world achieves this, but a critical mass? Since no country has yet to achieve true gender parity, we can only look to the hundreds, if not thousands of studies that say our world will be a more just, safe, and prosperous world for all. So does Women’s Equality Day matter? Heck yes it does.

Photo with Marie Wilson in 2013 – Marie was the the founding President of The White House Project and The Ms. Foundation. She has written Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World and Getting Big: Reimagining the Women’s Movement (coming soon!)



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