Women’s Equality: Just How Far Have We Come?

Over the weekend people all around the world celebrated Women’s Equality Day in a variety of ways. But as celebrations took place a new question arose: just how far have we come regarding women’s equality?

A recent WalletHub analysis broke down equality in each state of the U.S. and Florida was ranked 35th out of 50. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez gave insight to where the U.S. stands regarding the gender gap and what it means.

“I think there are several different kinds of definitions that’s why we chose to really look at three different categories. We looked at work place environment, education and health and finally political empowerment (for the WalletHub study),” explained Gonzalez.

In 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote and sparking the start of women’s equality. Fast forward to 2017 and the world has seen huge strides in how far women’s rights have come but is it possible that improving gender gap is at a standstill?

“I think obviously we’ve come a long way since the 1920’s, we’ve come a long way for certain since a while back, but I think it has slowed in the past decade or so,” said Gonzalez.

In fact, it seems that it has slowed greatly in the U.S. alone. In 2016, the U.S. didn’t even make the top 40 of the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 144 countries based on gender equality. The U.S. fell to the 45th position, down almost 20 spots from its’ previous ranking at No. 28.

The plummeted ranking sparked the 2017’s Best and Worst States for Women’s Equality study.

“Essentially, we looked at the gender gap, not only between wages or unemployment rates but also things like educational attainment, disparity even in mass test scores or doctor visit affordability,” Gonzalez explained about the study. “And finally something that might be a bit little more tangible the disparity in the share of law makers in the Senate, in the House of Representatives and in state legislator as well.”

The work place and political empowerment are where equality has stalled the most while college education has seen the biggest improvement and is the closest to equality.

“Right now women make up the majority of the population number one, number two they make up around 49 percent of the college-educated labor force, so that’s pretty much 50/50.”

However, women only constitute 25 percent of executive or senior level officials and managers. Only 20 percent of women hold board seats and women only make up six percent of ceos. The gaps are even worse for women of color.

While there is a chance of seeing women at CEO levels, it is very rare. Gonzalez suggests that lack of policies could be one reason for gender gap at the CEO, executive and manager level.

“I think that there really are not enough policies in place to make closing that gender gap either in the work place or just the gender pay gap efficiently or effectively,” said Gonzalez. “So that has to do with child care in the work place, it has to do with gender parental leave, it has to do with health care options.”

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivers a speech during the visit of a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F, in Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Photo: AP Photo/Thibault Camus.

“A lot of these things that we might not directly think of really do indirectly affect women in those higher up positions.”

While executive titles and high-level positions exhibit a major gender gap issue, income is another issue that isn’t as close to equality as many think.

In fact, two-thirds of minimum wage workers across the country are women, according to the National Women’s Law Center. In Florida more than half of minimum wage workers are women.

Women are still paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, “the wage gap typically translates into more than $10,000 per year in lost earnings for women.”

Thankfully, there are ways to improve work place equality though, and Gonzalez believes there’s a chance some corporations already have worked out a way to solve gender gap.

“I think we’re coming closer in the work place. Again I think it really starts at the corporation level and then hopefully goes up to the state level but if governments don’t set up incentive programs, noncompliance consequences then corporations have to do that.”

Regarding college education the statistics suggest equality has already been reached since women make up 49 percent of the college-educated labor force. But politics is another story that is going to take more work than even the work place.

According to Pew Research, in 2017, 21 women serve in the U.S. Senate, and 83 serve in the House of Representatives. That means women make up just 19.4 percent of Congress. The percentage is up nearly nine times what it was in 1965 but still, falls short when women make up 51.4 percent of the whole U.S. adult population.

Jeannette Rankin, first American congresswoman, shown Feb. 25, 1947, elected 30 years ago for the first of three terms as U.S. Representative from Montana, predicts the next three decades will bring a much stronger womanís voice in government, through the world. Photo: AP Photo.

“I think politics, unfortunately, is really going to be the last frontier regarding women’s equality because in some states, like in Florida we’re not seeing women run and that is truly where we need to get a grasp of the approach here and change that.”

Florida did not rank well in the study and in fact, was towards the bottom of the list concerning best states for women’s equality. Interestingly enough, Florida actually ranked in the top five for work place equality meaning income disparity is low, and unemployment rate disparity is low.

What hurt Florida the most, making it one of the worse states for equality is equality concerning education and health.

“We still see there is some educational attainment disparity, much of the population age 25 and up with a bachelor’s degree are men,” explained Gonzalez. “We also see a disparity really starting as young as grades four and eight in math test scores where girls are not fairing as well.”

When it came to doctor visit affordability, the percent of adults who could not afford a doctor’s visit in the past year due to cost was high.

“Obviously, women have certain needs like prenatal care, pediatric care, etc. that they, unfortunately, might not be able to get in Florida, so that’s what really needs the most improvement.”