The United States made considerable progress toward gender equality in 2009, according to the recently released Global Gender Index Study (GGIS), an annual index released by the World Economic Forum. The GGIS ranks countries in terms gender equality, evaluating such factors as women’s access to education, the presence of women in politics, equal employment opportunities and salaries, and health, according to Bloomberg.
The rank of the US has improved considerably over the past year, moving from number 31 in 2009 to number 19 in 2010. This is the first time that it has been in the top 20 since the World Economic Forum began releasing the index in 2005, according to the New York Times. The US scored 0.741 on a scale of zero to one, with one indicating complete equality.
The improvement is in large part due to the greater presence of women in the Obama administration. The ratio of females to males serving as department heads in the executive branch of government has increased dramatically from 2007 to in 2010, according to the study (see PDF). For every woman in a head executive position, there are two men in such positions in 2010, compared to more than six men for every one woman in 2007. Due to these increases, the United States now ranks 15 in the world for the number of women serving as executive department heads. However, it still trails behind in the category of political participation for women.
The report also indicates a significant increase in women’s estimated income. However, the difference between men’s and women’s salaries has not improved in the United States since 2009 and has decreased somewhat since 2006, according to the report. Of the 134 countries studied, 59 percent narrowed the equality gap between men and women, according to Bloomberg. Nordic countries Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden received the highest rankings.
The head of the Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity program, Saadia Zahidi told CNN, “it’s very encouraging that more countries are becoming aware of why it’s important to reduce the gender gap and are starting to explore policies that may be needed.” She also noted that gender equality fosters national economic growth and prosperity.
Gender inequality is greatest in Yemen, Chad, and Pakistan, according to the GGIS. The study also found that France faced a decrease in gender equality, due to the decline in the numbers of women holding government leadership positions.