Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) measures 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. In 2018, the United States ranked No. 51 out of the 149 countries measured, but that wasn’t the headline that made waves. In June 2019, the WEF released a shocking new finding: At the current rate of change, it will take the United States 208 years to close the gender gap.
It’s important to note that the WEF is not measuring women’s empowerment by country; it’s measuring gender parity, which is to say the gap between men and women. While the US has actually seen improvement in three of the four categories over the last dozen years, it has declined in one key category: health and survival. One reason is that the maternal mortality rate is worse in the United States than any other developed country. Another is that the healthy life expectancy for both women and men has declined in the last 12 years, but the decline for women is almost four times that of men, as evidenced in the 2006 and 2018 WEF reports. On the upside, parity in educational attainment has been achieved, even if it has not yet translated to the gender gap in the workforce or in political representation. In fact, the United States ranked 98th out of the 149 countries for political representation.
But having room to grow means there is hope that closing the gap could happen a lot faster than the projected 208 years. Any action can go a long way to ensure that the United States does not have to wait 208 years for gender equality; watch the video for some ideas of where to start.