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U.S. Women: Not Exactly Number One

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The Global Gender Gap Index is out for 2013. It's a report of the World Economic Forum that measures overall equality between women and men in 136 countries. At a time when American Exceptionalism is touted to the skies and we claim to be #1 in the world in everything from soft drink consumption to the size of our military, you'd expect us to come in ahead of the pack in gender equality.

Not exactly.

We rank 23rd, just behind Barundi (22) and just ahead of Australia (24). And we're WAY behind the top four -- Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. What's more, were not getting better. We've been dropping for the last two years -- we were 22nd last year and 17th in 2011.

But it's not all bad -- our score is a mixed bag. We're #6 in Economic Participation and Opportunity, and #1 in Educational Attainment. But then we drop to 33rd in Health and Survival, and way down to 60th in Political Leadership.

On one of the issues that polls highest with American women -- pay equity -- we sink even lower, to 67th, right below Yemen. We did beat out Saudi Arabia at 111th, no doubt because women in the U.S. are allowed to drive to work.

It helps to look at why we're so far behind the leaders. It's pretty simple. Countries at the head of the list make it possible for parents to combine work and family. That means high female employment, shared participation in childcare, and sharing of work at home. In short, a better work-life balance for both women and men. Some of the top countries have mandatory parental leave -- for mothers 2012-06-12-yourvoicesmallest2.JPGand fathers. This of course is made possible by generous federal support, an alien concept to U.S. lawmakers.

By contrast, the U.S. has pathetic 12 weeks of unpaid leave -- and it's only available if you work for a large company. We draw a big fat blank in the Maternity, Paternity and Shared Leave section of the Global Gender Gap Report.

Still, nobody can argue with the fact that we're in the world's top tier when it comes to standard of living. It's just that women in the good ol' U.S. of A. don't quite have the same standard as men. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from countries that are doing it right.

Listen to the two minute radio commentary here: