Last week, CNN’s Jessica Ravitz published a piece reflecting on the status of women in the U.S., as compared to other countries in the world. Ravitz wrote the piece to draw attention to “Equal Pay Day” – the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what a man earned in the previous year.
Currently, white women earn 78 cents to every dollar earned by a man. This year, Equal Pay Day fell on Tuesday, April 15th. The date changes for women of color. Black women earn 54 cents to every dollar earned by a man; Latina women earn 49 cents to every dollar. Equal Pay Day for black women falls on July 24th. For Native American women, it’s September 10th, and for Latinas, it’s November 6th.
In her article and the accompanying video, Ravitz addresses the pay gap and other areas in which the U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to gender equality. As Ravitz writes, sometimes we lag “in principle; other times in practice.” She begins by addressing CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The treaty was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. The U.S. signed the treaty, but has not ratified it.
The U.S. is also lagging behind in the area of paid maternity leave. Only nine countries do not offer paid maternity leave: The Marshall Island, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Tonga, and the United States.
The US is also lacking in terms of gender equality in political representation. The U.S. Congress ranks in the bottom when it comes to female members of national parliaments. After the 2014 elections, women made up 19.4% of the 535 in Congress. In Rwanda, women make up approximately 64% of its lower house and 38.5% of the Senate. Women are more equally represented in Uganda, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
While it’s true that writing gender equality into a country’s constitution does not necessarily guarantee that this equality is reflected in women’s lives, it is still interesting that the U.S. continues to be one of the only nations that hasn’t adopted equal rights provisions for women in the Constitution. There are currently 197 constitutions across the world. 165 of those contstitutions, or 84%, guarantee gender equality. (Although, 11 of those constitutions allow religious laws and customary laws to override the constitution.)
Ravitz closes the piece by drawing our attention to the revitalized fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into law. Written by suffragettes Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, the ERA, a constitutional amendment designed to provide women with explicit gender protections, was first introduced to Congress in 1923. The ERA has yet to be fully ratified.