World Economic Forum Reports the Best and Worse in Gender Equality

While the United States entered the top twenty for the first time, Iceland remained the leader in gender equity according to a report from the World Economic Forum that was released last week.

Since 2005, the forum has ranked 134 countries for their reduction of gender disparities in economic participation, education, political empowerment and health over the previous year. Some of the ways the determine the results is by looking at life expectancy, access to jobs and education, number of women in government and high level decision making positions and pay.

Nordic countries lead the pack with Norway, Finland and Sweden coming in just behind Iceland to make up the top four. On the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen continue to show no progress in reducing gender disparities. The most surprising country was France that slipped to 46th place from 18th last year.
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Can Quotas Solve the Gender Gap?

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of gender. When John F. Kennnedy signed the law in 1963, women were only earning 53 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, we are earning 77 cents on that dollar. For women of color, the wage gap is even wider. There are several factors that come into play when economists try to rationalize the existence of a gender gap in wages. But at the end of the day, there is only one explanation that matters; it is discrimination, plain and simple.

President Obama has this to say about the pay disparities:

This remains unacceptable, as it was when the Act was signed. All women – and their families – deserve equal pay. Women now make up nearly half of the nation’s workforce, most homes have two working parents, and 60 percent of all women work full-time. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in American history, when families are struggling to pay their bills and save for the future, pay inequity only deepens that struggle and hampers our economy’s ability to fully recover.

One potential solution is to institute a quota system, similar to the ones that have been adopted in other countries, like Norway and Sweden. Norway requires 50% of the Cabinet positions to be filled by women, and they have also passed legislation requiring 40% of executive positions in private companies to be held by women. [Read more...]