25 Surprising Stats to Share on Women’s Equality Day
Each year, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated to commemorate women earning the right to vote on Aug. 26, 1920. While you might not have heard of it, it’s been in practice since 1971 and is a big enough deal that every president since then has published a proclamation regarding women’s equality on that day.
While equal status for women has improved in nearly ever aspect of daily life since the 1920s, women in the U.S. and around the world still don’t really hold equal status in many ways. As we approach Women’s Equality Day, let’s take a look at some stats that show both the progress that has been made and that which still needs to be made in helping women earn equal status, respect, and pay as their male counterparts.
The pay gap between women and men has certainly narrowed over the past few decades, but there’s still a pretty big difference between the salaries of men and those of women. Some of that may have to do with the career choices women make to help them balance motherhood, but even when those factors are removed, women still often make significantly less than their male counterparts, a gap that amounts to 10 to 20 cents less for every dollar a man earns. Over a lifetime, that can really add up.
While women may make less than men on average, there are some professions where women do actually earn equal pay and may even draw bigger salaries than men. Oddly enough, many are professions where women are the minority, like construction supervision and scientific lab work. Women do also tend to earn slightly more than men in female-dominated fields like elementary teaching, occupational therapy, and information clerking, as well. Overall, however, women still earn just 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, and while an improvement from a decade ago (in 2000 women earned just 76 cents per dollar), it’s still a significant gap.
One of the factors that may account for why women make less than men is that women’s jobs tend to be more unstable and aren’t always permanent. This movement in and out of the workforce can cause salaries to take a hit and can make it difficult to advance to higher positions. This also places women in a precarious position, making it difficult for many to switch to more permanent positions, care for families, or support themselves.
As any number of recent high-profile cases will show you, domestic violence against women is still very common and occurs at all levels of income and in every cultural and racial group in the U.S. While assaults by an intimate partner also happen to men, they happen to women at a much higher rate and remain a serious problem for women all over the world, even in the U.S. Consider these stats: a 1996 study found that 25% of women and 7.6% of men had been raped or physically assaulted by a partner during their lifetime. Each year, approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. Domestic violence makes up 20% of the nonfatal violent crime against women in the U.S., but just 3% against men. Eighty-four percent of spousal abuse victims are female, and 86% of dating abuse victims are female.
Sadly, its still very common for women to be subject not only to physical and emotional violence, but also to sexual violence. Consider this: 18% of women report experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. Just 3% of men report the same. What’s worse, studies have found that just 10%-16% of assaults which conform to the legal definition of rape are ever reported. Why does this affect women’s equality? The prevalence of violence against women is a reflection of the reality that many still see women as objects to be owned and controlled. Additionally, the downplaying or justification of these kinds of behaviors creates an environment where women aren’t respected as equally important members of society.
Despite women making up more than half of the population of the United States and holding key positions in leadership, business, and education, women are still a relative rarity in American government. Currently, just 17% of the seats in Congress (that’s 90 seats in all) are held by women. It’s not much but it’s a 17% improvement over where things were a century ago. Things aren’t much differently globally, with an equal 17% of members of national parliaments worldwide being female.
While women are still greatly outnumbered by men in the business world, huge strides have been made in getting women to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. Today, 30% of all businesses are owned and operated by women. These businesses collectively bring in $1.2 trillion and employ more than 7.6 million people, making women major players in the American economy.
Today, women make up almost 15% of the active duty members in the United States military. Sadly, these women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire (20% of women in the military are sexually assaulted), according to recent statistics. Even worse, these crimes are often covered up or result in discipline of the victims, not the perpetrators.
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements in women’s equality over the past few years is in education. More women graduate from high school than men, attend and graduate from college, and earn graduate degrees. This is a significant change from even a decade ago and may also have big implications for the working world as more women are prepared for high-powered, education-intensive jobs than men. Some predict that it might help even out the pay gap.
While women in the U.S. and many other first world nations have it good when it comes to education, the same doesn’t hold true for many other places around the globe. Worldwide, 70% of the more than 855 million illiterate adults are women. The phenomenon is largely due to the belief in some nations and cultures that it’s unnecessary to educate women or send them to school, so many remain unable to read or write, which makes it hard to work or take part in other parts of society.
Women were once a rarity in the workplace and even in the U.S. many men begrudged women for taking jobs they thought belonged to them. Yet as of 2010, women made up just about 50% of the workforce on average across all industries. This is impressive progress and should be celebrated, but as you’ll see from our next stat, it’s also important which jobs women are working, not just that they have jobs, when it comes to equality.
Women are increasingly taking on management roles in business, but still lag far behind men when it comes to their distribution in top leadership positions. Just 13% of board members are women and fewer than 3% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. These numbers are higher than they’ve ever been before, but they’re still far from impressive.
It will never be easy to balance taking care of a family and working full time, but many modern businesses don’t do much to help women out. The United States is one of very few countries in the world that does not mandate paid maternity leave. Amazingly, 178 other nations in the world manage to do so, even some that are much worse off economically than the U.S. This, and other work-related factors, have made it hard for women to balance the economic necessity of working with the demands of caring for children, which according to a Pew study, leaves many feeling very stressed.
A variety of factors contribute to women having a much less stable retirement than men. They make less during their working years, are less likely to have a pensioned position, and will spend less time in the workforce than men. Add to that smaller Social Security checks and longer life spans and you have a perfect storm that leaves many women unprepared to support themselves throughout their older years. Education on financial planning is one key way to help change this, but evening out the playing field in the workplace is also a critical step.
Like real estate, gender equality in pay is all about location. In Wyoming, women earn just 64% of what their male counterparts do, the biggest gap in the nation. Women there earn about $32,426 on average, while men earn $50,854. The state with the best record is Washington, D.C. There, women earn 91% of their male counterparts.
Colleges, employers, and the government are all working hard to draw women into fields that are currently heavily male-dominated, but at present there’s still a huge gender gap when it comes to STEM and other traditionally male professions. Here are some stats to consider: women hold just 27% of computer science jobs, 5% of electrical engineering jobs, and only 24% of STEM jobs overall.
In 2004, 24,249 individual sex discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In recent years, several major gender discrimination cases have gone to court, including those involving Wal-Mart and Morgan Stanley. While women are making strides in the workplace, these stats show that treatment once they’re there isn’t always equal or fair.
Globally, women make up a much higher percentage of those living in poverty, with more than 8.6 million living well below the poverty line. Unequal opportunities for education and access to jobs, especially high-paying ones, contribute to keeping women poor around the world. In the U.S., the trend holds true. 13.9 percent of those living in poverty are women, compared to 10% of men.
Before Title IX, young women made up just 7% of the students participating in high school sports. By 2001, that number had risen to 41.5%. That’s an increase of more than 800%, bringing the number of female student athletes to well over 2 million today.
When considering the national bottom line, women in the workforce is a really, really good thing. Goldman Sachs calculates that increasing women’s participation in the labor market to male levels will boost GDP by 21% in Italy; 19% in Spain; 16% in Japan; 9% in America, France and Germany; and 8% in the U.K. That’s a substantial gain, and one that should be serious motivation for women to get out there and work.
It can be to a woman’s advantage to work in a unionized environment. Women who work in unionized professions make 82% of men’s incomes. While that’s still a substantial gap, it’s much less than in professions without unions. There, women make only about 72% of men’s incomes.
The Gender Inequality Index measures genders disparity by looking at reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation. According to 2011 results, Yemen is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to equality for women, followed closely by Chad, Niger, Mali, and the Congo. The best countries for women are in Europe, with Sweden taking top honors and the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland rounding out the top five. Where was the U.S.? All the way down at number 37.
There are big differences in equality for women when comparisons are made between ethnic and racial backgrounds. Women of color are more likely to be unemployed and even when they are they make far less than men; just 66 cents on the dollar for African-American women and 56 cents on the dollar for Hispanic women.
While men now bear a much fairer share of work around the house and caring for dependents, women, even those who work full-time, are still largely responsible for these tasks. Some of it has to do with men working longer hours (men work 8.3 hours a day on average, women 7.8) but there is still a pervasive cultural attitude that housework and childcare are female jobs. Married mothers who work full time put in an average of 51 minutes a day on housework; married working fathers just 14 minutes. They also spend more time on childcare, averaging 30 minutes more.
In many places, women cannot participate in the workforce, can’t travel, can’t vote, get paid significantly less for their work, or are regarded as less intelligent, able, and valuable than their male counterparts. While much progress in equality still needs to be made in the U.S., let this Women’s Equality Day be a reminder of just how much more critical progress there is to be made outside of our borders, too.