The issue of women’s rights is one that impacts women and girls around the world. While this cause has advanced greatly in the United States over recent decades, the U.S. still falls behind other countries in many key areas.
According to Catherine Russell, the U.S. Ambassador At-Large for Global Women’s Issues, the most important step toward improving women’s rights is to “make it more possible for women to participate economically.” Through economic opportunity, women can afford to take care of their families and send their children to school. For daughters especially, staying in school can lead to a better future, as girls who attend school tend to marry later, have children later, and earn more money later in life.
In the United States, women still only make about 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes in a comparable job, and the numbers are even lower for women of color.
The United States ranks only 65th in wage equality. The United States is one of only four countries that does not provide paid leave for working mothers of newborns and the only wealthy, developed country that does not provide its citizens with this benefit. The other countries are the Marshall Islands, Niue, and Papua New Guinea. Almost half of countries worldwide, including Saudi Arabia, offer paid leave for new fathers as well as new mothers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the United States ranks in the lower half of countries for the number of women in parliamentary roles…
…with only 19.4 percent of Congress members being women. The United States has also never had a female president, while India, Pakistan and Germany have all had women hold their top leadership positions.
Women’s Rights in the United States
Bettina Hager is one of the top proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment, a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee women’s rights and explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender. Although this amendment was first introduced in 1923, it did not receive much attention until the late 1970s and early 1980s. In order for an amendment to pass, three quarters of the states must approve it. In 1982, the last time the ERA was voted on, it fell just three states short of the requirement. Over 30 years later, the amendment still has not passed. As Hager puts it:
“Seven out of ten Americans think we already have it. Nine out of ten think we should have it. Why don’t we have it? Because seven out of ten think we do.”
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Despite the abysmal record on some of these issues, there are other areas in which the United States excels when it comes to women’s rights. Women in the United States are some of the most fortunate when it comes to access to education, which, in turn, provides access to higher paying jobs.
In many developing countries, families cannot afford to send young girls to school.
Particularly in countries suffering from political unrest and conflict, many families enter their young daughters into marriage, as they believe it to be better for the girls’ safety. Similarly, in many underprivileged countries, violence against women is common, which makes it difficult for them to stay in school or enter the work force.
Looking To The Future
The Equal Futures Partnership is an organization that seeks to bring various countries together to push for women’s political and economic empowerment. The Partnership focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs and developing leadership programs for women and girls around the world. The United States works through this program to support other countries in enacting change in these areas.