There are national elections that grab the attention of the world, such as the first elections after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the first Russian election after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Brexit. The US presidential election has grabbed the attention of the world’s media because of the reality TV show it has turned into. With a candidate that seems to care more about media attention than the future of the country, this election has turned into a circus that keeps the world leaders (Smith) guessing as to the republican candidates (Varkiani) next move. The reason why this years American presidential election should be making headlines has fallen to the side lines. The fact that this is the first time a woman is the candidate for one of the two main parties in the USA has been overshadowed. For the first time in US history, Americans stand a real chance at electing a female president
USAID writes as their goal for women’s development: “When women participate in civil society and politics, governments are more open, democratic and responsive to citizens”. This is one of their goals for the “developing world”. Let us take a closer look at what is happening at home.
As Emma Watson pointed out in her now famous speech on gender equality at the United Nations Headquarters in 2014 “no country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality” (UN Women). The great news is that women are being educated. More women graduate collage then men in the USA. Women also make up roughly half the work force, women and men have more or less equal access to health care now that birth control is free through the affordable care act, and we are seeing a great increase in women being elected into political office (Bidwell). But we still have a long way to go.
“Despite women’s advancements […] substantial inequalities remain. Although an increasing number of women are either the sole breadwinner for their family or share the role with their partners, women in the United States are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay gap is even larger for women of color. On average, African American women make 64 cents for every dollar that white men make. While 2012 was a watershed year for women in terms of getting elected to public office, women still comprise only 18.1 percent of Congress, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population.” (Chu)
Equal work =equal pay seems like such a straightforward equation. But like in many countries in the global north this is still not the case. Because of the gap in pay women with low income is much more likely to live under the poverty line than her male equivalent.
It’s not only when it comes to money that women have to make sacrifices. The US is the only developed country that does not offer women guaranteed paid maternity leave (Zadrozny). This fact alone contributes to disadvantages on all levels of the economic spectrum. It means that women in low income jobs will either have to quit their jobs when they have a baby or find an alternative after as little as two weeks at home. For women already struggling this can be disastrous for their economy. Women in careers face a different struggle. Having a baby can be detrimental to a career and women have to work extra hard to stay on the career ladder once they have had children. The work environment that has been created around high government or corporate position is one where “spending time with family” has become code for being fired (Slaughter). Time with family is seen as a hindrance and not valued. This is surprising seeing how every political campaign in the USA is run on family values.
In the USA we have a long way to go until we see an equal representation of men and women in political office. Until we get more women in power, corporate as well as political, we are far from creating a society where men and women can expect to be valued for their abilities rather than their gender. If we compare the USA to Sweden where in 2006 women held 47.3% of seats in parliament, the USA is at its highest right now at 19.4%, the difference is clear. Sweden has very generous parental leave where a part has to be taken by the father or it’s lost, child care is virtually free and guaranteed and there is now a national move towards a 6 hour work day. Is this a result of a more equal parliament? We can argue for and against but what most people are willing to agree on is that when we look at people around us as equals we will have a must stronger foundation for society to develop.
Bidwell, A (2014) Women are more likely to graduate college but still earn less than men http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/10/31/women-more-likely-to-graduate-college-but-still-earn-less-than-men
Chu, A (2013) The state of women in America https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2013/09/25/74836/the-state-of-women-in-america
Slaughter, A (2012) Why women still can’t have it all http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020
Smith, D. (2016) President Trump fills the world leaders with fear https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/28/donald-trump-president-world-leaders-foreign-relations
UN Women (2014) http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too
USAID (2016) Gender equality and women’s empowerment https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment
Varian, A. (2016) What newspapers in 13 countries are saying about Donald Trump https://thinkprogress.org/what-newspapers-in-13-countries-are-saying-about-donald-trump-819e632616d2#.y30emi4s6
Worldbank (2016) http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS
Zadrozny, B (2015) Women won’t have equal pay until 2058 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/12/women-won-t-have-equal-pay-until-2058.html