Ok, here’s The List:
5. New Zealand
12. Sri Lanka
13. United Kingdom
19. Trinidad and Tobago
22. South Africa
27. United States
OK, so, thinking about that lineup, class, this list must be a rank-order measurement of countries according to:
a) fjords per capita
b) percentage of the population who are Bono fans
c) statistical probability of seeing men in lederhosen
d) equality of opportunity between men and women
If you chose “d” you win the Gender Gap knowledge award for 2008! And, here’s your prize, a free link to the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum. (go ahead, click on that link, it won’t hurt a bit — until you read the actual facts!)
Every Trinity student, faculty and staff member should read this report. How many times do people say to us, “What? A Women’s College? In THIS day and age? Haven’t women achieved equality yet?” Well, here’s the best proof yet of the need to persist in our mission of advancing the cause of women’s education and advancement.
Look at that list again. The United States. Shame, shame, shame. We are only 27th, beat out by Cuba, Mozambique, Lesotho, and for heavens sakes, Latvia. We know the Norse and Fins and Swedes are pretty advanced in their civilization, perhaps something to do with all that cold air, but heck, Argentina beats the U.S. on gender equity, too!
Why does the most economically secure, most powerful nation on earth lag so badly in gender equality? If you look at the data in the report, you’ll see that we do very well on education, but flunk on political empowerment. I guess that’s not so surprising when we think about the Hillary Clinton v. Sarah Palin problem. Now that the election is over, we should deconstruct this conundrum. Hillary is the real thing: a very strong, decisive, powerful woman who, precisely because of those qualities, invites demonization and detraction consistently, and large suspicion. Sarah may well be strong, decisive and powerful, too, but in the election she allowed herself to be used as a foil of sorts, an “acceptable” female candidate with a wildly complex set of conflicting images — hockey mom and friend of Joe Sixpack, gun-totin’ maverick and shopaholic. Sarah was “safe” for a certain swatch of the population because she did not seem quite so smart, so threatening as a Hillary — and isn’t that the problem we face, the need for women to repress their smarts and true leadership abilities in order to gain favor. Take off the parka and put on the Chanel suit. Sarah lost, too, because in the end she became a cariacature. Americans may be suspicious of the powerful Hillary figure, but when the SNL parody uses the script from real life, they reject that image of women’s leadership, too.
We have a long way to go, baby.
PS: Trinity’s own Nancy Pelosi ’62 is “the most powerful woman in U.S. political history” according to politico.com Speaker Pelosi remains the only woman in the room at many of the most important meetings in this town, see Reuters photo below as she meets on November 6 with leaders of the U.S. Automobile industry — CEOs of Chrysler, Ford, General Motors. This singular example of women’s leadership illustrates the plain fact that it will be many more generations before a table full of chairs and CEO’s from any industry includes significant numbers of women.