Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum has issued its latest report on gender equity in various world countries, “Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap.” The report ranks countries according to how women have achieved full equality with men in five categories:

*economic participation
*economic opportunity
*political empowerment
*educational attainment
*health and well-being

As you might expect, other countries far outstrip the United States in many of these categories. Overall, we rank 17th out of the 58 countries studied. Our strength is in educational attainment, where we rank 8th; we lag in economic opportunity (46) and health and well-being (42). Economic opportunity in America is hindered by a lower level of upward mobility for women, and because of the paucity of paid leave programs for parents in the U.S. Apparently, there are many variables that affect health and well-being; but it is still surprising that our infant mortality rate is higher than many western European countries.

My interest is in the political empowerment category. I have written elsewhere on the issue of women in government, and my belief that we would be better served by a more balanced gender ratio in government. The United States ranks 19th in this category. According to one report, only 15.6% of the combined parliamentary bodies in the world are women. As the report states:

The absence of women from structures of governance
inevitably means that national, regional and local
priorities—i.e. how resources are allocated—are
typically defined without meaningful input from women,
whose life experience gives them a different awareness
of the community’s needs, concerns and interests from
that of men.

I couldn’t have put it better. For more, you can review the report here.

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