Gender Equality: USA vs Nicaragua and Rwanda

Recently, the World Economic Forum released a report on the global gender gap for 2014. The index was averaged from four factors including: economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment as well as health and survival. The index is calculated through ratios with the final score calculated to be between 0 and 1, with 1 being complete gender equality in those countries and 0 being complete inequality. There is no country in the world with a perfect score of 1, where gender equality truly exists.

Top 20 Rankings

Why the US is ranked lower than Nicaragua and Rwanda in terms of gender equality

The US ranked 20th with a score of 0.746. Rwanda ranked 7th and Nicaragua ranked 6th. Although the US does outstandingly in 3 of those factors, they fall far short when it comes to political empowerment. The ratio of women in parliament is 0.22 to every male and it has never had a female head of state. The statistics are similar in the United Kingdom with the same flaw in political empowerment. In comparison, Rwanda does not perform nearly as well as the United States in any category except in politics where there are almost twice as many women in parliament as men which leads to a higher index score. Nicaragua has a slightly different pattern as it excels in equality in education, health and politics but only falls short on women in economic participation.

Is it surprising that some of the most economically developed countries in the World are less successful at closing the gender gap than some of the lower income countries? Countries such as Rwanda, Nicaragua, and Philippines are able to decrease this gap due to their policies and national encouragement of women in politics.

In 2007, Nicaragua had a score of 0.181 in terms of political empowerment. This has increased by 0.363 to 0.544. However, in 2007, the United States had a score of 0.102 and since then only increased by a tiny 0.083 to 0.185. The statistics clearly show that Nicaragua has seen an incredible increase of women in politics whereas this remains a much larger issue in the US.

Nicaragua- Trend from 2006-2014

[Nicaragua Trend]
USA- Trend from 2006-2014

[USA Trend]

The countries above Nicaragua on the ranking are all Scandinavian countries and all apply Nordic Social Democracy which may be the key to it’s development in equality. They also have greater gender equality in terms of politics (Iceland has had 20 female heads of state out of the past 50). The solution seems surprisingly simple: the US needs more women in politics. The reason for this is not because they are unable to or due to their responsibilities as a women but is likely to be because they lack encouragement to have a role in politics and run for office.

The other end of the spectrum

Towards the bottom of the rankings, the problem is clear once again. There is a disappointingly large inequality with regards to the education of women. This is particularly apparent in Yemen and Chad, receiving a score of just over 0.5 for education. The importance of education cannot be emphasised enough as it gives them the ability to recognise that they have a choice in what they make of their lives. They are not forced into a career due to lack of education or have to rely on a husband to take care of them. In terms of the equality index, education for women leads to more women being involved in earning money and therefore increasing the score for economic participation as well as increasing the number of women in politics.

Yemen- Scorecard for Educational Attainment

It is seen in many countries that once girls are encouraged and able to receive an education, they will continue to study and outnumber men in education at a university level. This empowers women to make decisions about their lives in terms of careers and children. They will understand the importance of healthcare and family planning as well as being able to earn money for their families. Education for women has been pointed out to be the key to reducing poverty and closing the gender inequality gap.

This report has made it very clear where the problem with gender inequality lies. The weakness in politics is blatant and it can be changed as it is often based on the decisions of women. However, the issue which has not been brought up in this article in detail is one of the wage gap. The report takes this into account but only as a small part of the factor of economic participation. Wage equality in the US has a shocking score of 0.66, Nicaragua at 0.61 and even Iceland has a score of 0.74. The issue of wage equality is a global one and is based purely on sexual discrimination.


Written by: Rattanan Aim Wonghirundacha


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