Our progress closing the gender gap?
You should care if you’re a woman – working for pay currently or not. You should care if you know a woman, working for pay currently or not. You should care if you have a child or grandchild who will emerge from girlhood into womanhood, with her dreams not yet marred.
What sort of dreams?
The answer to that is simple.
Dreams we all have as children and young adults: Dreams of a decent education, of pursuing something we love, of earning a living, of providing for our families. Dreams of a political process that represents us – in a real, tangible, integrated fashion.
As for that progress in addressing the gender gap, you could say we’ve earned a round of applause, though if you ask me, it should last five seconds and recognize that we need to do better.
Global Gender Gap Index
Consider this article from Fortune Magazine.
In “Why the US Is Losing the Fight on Gender Equality,” Caroline Fair references the Global Gender Gap Index.
The gap in economic opportunity between American men and women is narrowing, but the U.S. still can’t seem to get ahead in the global race for equality.
The United States came in at No. 20 out of 142 countries in this year’s ranking of gender equality by the World Economic Forum. It marks a comeback of sorts for the nation after having slipped out of the top 20 for the past two years.
Care to know some of the countries that are ahead of the US?
Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, France and South Africa.
Oh, you say to yourself. We might have expected that Scandinavian countries would outpace us in gender equality. We might have anticipated as much from both Canada and France. But South Africa?
What’s more, the article informs us:
… Rwanda and Nicaragua both have less than $9 billion in GDP, but both rank among the top 10 countries in the world when it comes to gender equality.
Embarrassed yet? I am.
Political Empowerment, Women in Congress
As for how gender equality is assessed and its implications, I recommend reading Ms. Fair’s article in its entirety. But the gist is this: The Global Gender Gap Index considers economic participation / opportunity, education, health, and political empowerment.
Political empowerment. Now that’s an interesting topic, isn’t it? How many of you plan to vote in the upcoming midterm elections? Are you aware there are elections on November 4 – and how critical these elections are? Are you aware what female representation looks like in our state and federal governments?
Ms. Fair provides more on that score, noting that the US:
… ranked No. 54 in the political category largely because it has never had a female president. At a cabinet level, the U.S. has seen a slight increase with women holding 32% of positions compared with 27% last year.
Consider this from the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers:
Total Senate: 100 (53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, 2 Independents); 20 are women (16 Democrats, 4 Republicans)
Total House of Representatives: 435 (201 Democrats, 234 Republicans); 79 are women (60 Democrats, 19 Republicans, 3 Delegates)
Need help doing the math?
Allow me. 20% of our Senators are female, and 18% of our Representatives in the US House are female.
There were over 158.6 million females in the United States in 2009. The number of males was 151.4 million. At age 85 and older, there were more than twice as many women as men.
Feeling Represented? Pas Moi!
Females comprise roughly 51% of the population (which is 318.9 million as of October 2014). 51% of the population, with 20% representation in our political process. That leaves me a bit queasy.
Women of color holding office? 30% of the 99 women in Congress. In statewide elected executive offices, the numbers plummet. Are we surprised?
Like I said: There is an election coming up – next week. Think you should care? Think you could check out who’s running in your state and for what? Wouldn’t you like your elected officials as a whole to resemble your country as a whole – at least to a lesser degree of embarrassment? To represent your interests if possible? And just how long would it take you to find out who is on the ballot and what they stand for? An hour on the Internet? Can you spare that?
Sure, in order to vote, you may need to make arrangements for kids, take a half day off from work, and find transportation. Doesn’t this seem important to you? It does to me. I’m back to those “dreams” – for the children my sons will have one day, for the daughters of my friends, for the older women we will become – if we are lucky – as I worry about the impacts of the lifelong gender pay gap and what it means for social security accounts, for health care, for remaining a vital and contributing citizen for the rest of my life.
Candidates and Their Positions
Not sure you can find that hour after all? I’ll make it easy for you. Ballotpedia.org.
Ballotpedia makes it simple for us to see who is running. Access the main page, click on your state, then go from there. Click on the name of a candidate and you will see his or her personal information, voting history, and position on the issues – everything from the Affordable Care Act to gun control, and immigration reform to raising the minimum wage.
Any more excuses?
I haven’t touched on issues of the workplace here, relative to gender inequality. We know the challenges are many and the reasons are complex. But voting? Finding out who your representatives are and their positions? Whether or not they’re commenting on the affordability of a doctor’s visit while sitting on $10+ million or $20+ million or $40+ million in net worth?
Think what they do doesn’t affect our lives? Think their “world views” don’t shape a woman’s choices?
With rights come responsibilities. Isn’t that what we teach our children? Shouldn’t we exercise our rights – responsibly – even if we’ve grown cynical over Big Pharma and Big Food and Big Banks and their lobbyists? Is it better to stew in silence? To bitch, but do nothing? At the very least, can’t we inform ourselves and then vote?
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