2012 Report on Gender Equality and Development says US women have room for progress

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Tuesday, World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. The United States is referred to many times, often as a benchmark to foster understanding of recent gains for women in other parts of the globe. At the same time, United States women still lag behind US men in a number of areas.

In 2012, the authors note women in the United States still face challenges economically and socially. They are represented disproportionately in certain professions like teaching and nursing. They are paid less than their male counterparts. Jobs traditionally held by women also result in lower wages for men who hold these jobs. They are under-represented at the highest level of business, with only 28 of Fortune 1000 companies having a female chief executive officer. The bottom 20% of women economically have a slightly higher birth rate than their peers in the top 20%.

Immigrants to the United States from Southeast Asia and India have higher than expected male to female birth ratios, which the report authors suggest is partially deliberate sex selection based on cultural attitudes from home countries. In 2009, over half a million US women were victims of intimate partner violence. The report suggests US men have greater pension assets than US women. When compared to elderly US men, elderly women in the United States are more likely to live alone than with a spouse. US women are disproportionately under-represented in local police forces, accounting for less than 20% of all police officers. Women in the United States also bear a higher percentage of housework duties than men at 61%. When US women take part time work while raising children, they find it difficult to use that work experience to gain future full time employment. US women are disincentivized from re-entering the workforce after giving birth because of the high cost of childcare.

A suffrage parade in the United States in 1912
Image: National Archives and Records Administration .

Many of the gains for United States women took place a while ago and took a long time to get. It took 40 years, 1870–1910, to see major improvements in the percentage of girls aged 6 to 12 attending school. In 1921, after women got the right to vote in the United States, the United States Congress passed the Promotion of the Welfare and Hygiene of Maternity and Infancy Act. This assisted in lowering infant mortality from 23% to 15%.

Affirmative Action Demonstration in 2003 in the District of Colombia
Image: Joseluis89.

The report says affirmative action in the United States resulted in jobs transferring from men to women, but the authors hedged and did not draw a conclusion about the economic impact of these legislative efforts other than to say the impact was not negative.

Many of the legislative victories for United States women came early compared to developing countries. Property rights for women, while later than some of their European counterparts like Norway and the United Kingdom, started to come by 1848. That year, the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in New York. It was the first legislation of its kind in the country. Other states soon followed. Women got suffrage on a state-by-state level in the country until they got federal suffrage in 1920. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination against women and allowed married women to make loans without their husband's consent. In 1980, airlines were barred from discriminating against flight attendances for their marital status during the hiring and firing stage.

The number of United States respondents agreeing with the proposition "a university education is more important for a boy than for a girl" decreased from about 14% in the period between 1994 and 1999 to about about 9% in the period between 2005 and 2007. Similarly, the number of people who agreed with "when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women" decreased from 19% to about 8% over the same period.

The report cites current research from the United States and England showing the more education a mother has, the better the outcomes for her children will be.

Average national scores on the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment maths test
Image: StatSilk .

Currently in the United States, females academically outperform their male counterparts in all academic areas including [[mathematics|math] and science. On the Programme for International Student Assessment math test though, US boys tested better than US girls by a score of roughly 495 to 480. US girls outperform boys on the literacy test with mean scores of approximately 510 to 490. In this regard, the report suggests US girls' performance patterns resemble global ones.

Mali's percentage of girls in primary school is equivalent to the United States in 1810 at around 34%. Burkino Faso is worse, matching the United States in 1780 with a percentage of roughly 25%. Niger's current enrollment for girls is around 50%, around the same percentage as the United States in 1900.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.