THE BLOG

Still Lagging After All These Years

03/05/2015 12:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015

March 8 is International Women's Day, so it's time to check in on where the good old U.S. of A. stands in relation to the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality. Spoiler alert: We're not number one.

Taking into account all variables considered by the World Economic Forum for its "Global Gender Gap Report," which looks at education, economic empowerment, health, and political empowerment, we're 20th out of 142 countries in the world. Last year we were number 23, so we've improved a bit overall (though back in 2011 we were even better, at 17th).

Looking behind the numbers we see some good news -- and some worrisome trends. Our world ranking overall was pulled up by education and health. American women and girls are not only equal to their brothers in educational opportunities, but they've surged ahead in college enrollments. And even though fewer females than males are born, women actually live longer. (The report is silent on whether men die earlier because of wars, extreme sports, or a "hold my beer and watch this" mentality.)

The not-so-good news behind our great education score is that female college enrollment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is less than half that of the guys, and the 2014-04-01-yourvoicesmallest3.JPG number sinks even lower in graduation rates. We also fall all the way down to 65th in the world in overall wage equality. That may be because U.S. women are close to half of the workforce, but they're still doing the lioness' share of the childcare and housework -- 248 minutes per day compared with 161 minutes for men.

There's one place where we're 100-percent equal to the men. On length of maternity and paternity leave and amount of wage replacement during time off, the U.S. score is simply blank, meaning we have no ranking at all, and both genders lose out. For one of the so-called most advanced countries on the planet, that's pathetic.

Political empowerment? American women do have the vote, but we still fall short when it comes to real power. We're 54th in overall political clout, behind Nicaragua, Rwanda and Burundi. Looking at percentage of women in Congress, we're even worse, at 83rd, bested not only by almost all of Europe but by Cambodia, Algeria, and Angola. I'll let you guess where we stand on years with a female head of state.

That's it for another International Women's Day. Let's hope that by 2016 we can at least pull ahead of Burundi.

Listen to the two-minute radio commentary here.