The US Falls Behind Nicaragua, Rwanda, And The Philippines On Women’s Equality

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The United States moved up a few slots in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report this year compared to last. But it still falls at number 20, behind less developed countries including Nicaragua, Rwanda, the Philippines, Burundi, and South Africa, as well as more developed peers like the Nordic countries, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, France, and Canada, among others.

The U.S. ranks at the top when it comes to educational measures such as equal school enrollment from primary education to college for girls and boys and the literacy rate. But it falls behind in many economic measures. It ranks at number 47 for equal labor force participation — 67 percent of American women are in the workforce, compared to 78 percent of men — and number 65 on equal pay for similar work. The average American woman who works full time, year round makes 78 percent of what the same man makes. American women also spend more than 4 hours a day, on average, on unpaid work, while men spend a little more than 2.5 hours.

One area the country falls down in particular is in paid family leave. Given that the U.S. doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, unlike nearly every country around the world, or paternity leave, unlike 70 other countries, it doesn’t get any points for measuring the length of maternity or paternity leave or the size of benefits. The lack of paid leave, along with low spending on childcare and a lack of support for flexible work arrangements, is part of why the U.S. has been falling behind on women entering the workforce over the last two decades.

It also ranks at number 16 for women’s share of legislators, senior officials, and managers. Given that a woman has never been president, the country ranks at number 64 for how many years we’ve had a female head of state and gets a score of zero. It doesn’t fare much better for women in other political positions — white men make up 31 percent of the American population but 65 percent of elected officials.

On a scale of one to seven, with one being the worst and seven the best, the U.S. gets a 4.9 score for women’s chances of rising to positions of leadership at the workplace. The WEF has credited other countries’ quota systems for increasing women’s share of top roles, but the U.S. doesn’t have anything like that — it just has a rule requiring companies to disclose how they consider diversity that’s so vague that it usually isn’t defined as relating to gender or race. Women make up less than 15 percent of executive officer positions at the country’s largest companies and less than 17 percent of board positions.