Gender Equality in the US: How Do We Rank?


Here in the U.S., women have many freedoms. In fact, our country’s moniker “the land of the free” sums up how many feel about being a resident of the United States. It’s easy to think that our nation is a leader in women’s equality, because many of us experience an abundance of wealth and personal freedoms that citizens of other countries do not. But when we look at gender equality in our country in comparison with the rest of the world, just how do U.S. women rank?

globe with US prominentYou may be surprised. According to the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, the U.S. ranks 22 behind the UK, the Philippines and Iceland which is ranked number one. The report was created as a framework for capturing “the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time.” The report is designed to evaluate opportunities and resources available to women based upon their specific access to these opportunities and resources. In other words, the ranking is based on a country’s specific gender gaps and not their development level. So although the Philippines may be considered a developing nation economically, the women of that country experience less gender inequality than women residing in the U.S. The thought is a humbling one.

In this amazing country of ours, what is it that keeps women fettered to outdated paradigms? With all the power our country wields on an international level, why do women here have less access to opportunities and economic resources than men? In the NY Times article, Why Gender Equality Stalled, Stephanie Coontz writes:

“The answer is suggested by the findings of the New York University sociologist Kathleen Gerson in the interviews she did for her 2010 book, ‘The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family.’ Eighty percent of the women and 70 percent of the men Ms. Gerson interviewed said they wanted an egalitarian relationship that allowed them to share breadwinning and family care. But when asked what they would do if this was not possible, they described a variety of ‘fallback’ positions. While most of the women wanted to continue paid employment, the majority of men said that if they could not achieve their egalitarian ideal they expected their partner to assume primary responsibility for parenting so they could focus on work.”

woman and child with laptopIt seems that despite a plethora of career options, if an employer provides few family-friendly benefits or none at all, it is the woman that typically sacrifices her job to take responsibility for parenting so that her partner can continue pursuing his career path. This supports the findings in the Global Gender Gap Report. In the U.S. workplace framework, there is not enough structure in place that allows a family the flexibility and support for both spouses to pursue their careers. More resources need to be extended to career mothers that would give them (and their partners by extension) the ability to keep both home and work in balance.

The results of the Global Gender Gap Report show us that the U.S. needs to make further inroads with gender equality. Despite living in an economically powerful nation, our country has to make strides to make in women’s health, education, economic participation and political empowerment. And as our international friends have demonstrated, there is much room for improvement.



“us-lags-other-countries-in-gender-equality-report Retrieved Oct 4 2013.

“Why Gender Equality has Stalled” Retrieved Oct 4 2013.

“The Global Gender Gap Report 2012” Retrieved Oct 4 2013.


© Women’s Empowerment Initiative.  All Rights Reserved.