Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” I’ve read that this was in response to a question in Saudi Arabia but I’ve also read that it was addressed to an audience in India. I’m unsure of which but the fact is that although we know that gender inequality is an issue in many countries that seem so remote to us that it is easy to point fingers, it is still an issue in the US and Europe also.
In 2009 the Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, indicated that the US ranked 31rst, https://members.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2009.pdf. Not surprisingly, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden ranked in the top 4 but the US fell right behind Lithuania. In 2012 the US ranking rose to 22nd, one place ahead of Mozambique. France was ranked 51rst. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden held their positions from 2009.
I recently had a conversation with a learner that was based on a Washington Post article, which questions women’s equality in France. The male learner was surprised by the information provided in the article and felt that it was important but felt that it was less important than other topics that France presently faces. Although I acknowledge that concerns like the economy, unemployment and the environment are important issues, I would venture to guess that if the “shoe” was on the other gender it would be a priority.
There are many reasons why US women should be more vigilant to the facts concerning gender equality. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that even after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was implemented, women still earn less than their male counterparts. One issue that seems to be easily forgotten is the fact that women’s reproductive rights seem to be in question during every election. The issue that I find most compelling is the fact that gender inequality promotes violence against women and nearly 1 in 5 US women are the victim of sexual assault. If you are reading this and thinking that those statistics are inaccurate, ask yourself how many of your closest friends you would tell if you were sexually humiliated by your boss, co-worker, doctor, brother, father, husband, boyfriend or complete stranger. If it still seems inaccurate, count yourself lucky. The complacency or perhaps the misconception that women in western cultures are living with equality promotes the problem but worse it perpetuates violence against women. Myths that are created about what promotes rape are still strongly rooted within the US judicial system and victims of sexual assault continue to be treated more like the perpetrator than the victim. Shame prevents most victims from ever reporting the assault.
After the death of Bin Laden was announced the world saw Americans celebrating holding up one finger and chanting, “USA, USA, USA”. We take comfort in the idea that we are a military super power. We live for seeing our great and talented Olympic athletes take the gold. Shouldn’t we also strive for being number one in gender equality or at least somewhere in the top five?
Crowd Chants USA at Mets Game