When I visited my mother in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 2009, Pelican Eyes Resort was building a new pool near the house I was staying in. A female engineer was in charge of the construction, and I admired her clear sense of authority over the male workers. I spoke to her in my pidgin Spanish, telling her that I found it impressive that the men were so willing to work under a female engineer, and she seemed surprised. “You mean it’s not like this in the United States?” she asked. “Not in my experience,” I replied.
Since then I’ve wondered if I was exaggerating, but a new study by the World Economic Forum, the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, bears out that conversation. The report ranks 135 countries (which collectively contain over 90 percent of the world's population) based on 14 indicators used to measure the size of a nation's gender gap.
Nicaragua is 9th on the list, while the United States is #22. Cuba beat the U.S. also, coming in at #19.
According to the Huffington Post the indicators can be grouped into four key areas:
1. Economic participation and opportunity, which includes female labor force participation, wage equality and the percentage of women in high-ranking jobs.
2. Educational attainment, which looks at female literacy and how frequently women are enrolled in higher education.
3. Health and survival, which is measured by comparing female and male life expectancy and mortality rates.
4. Political empowerment, which examines the number of women holding political office as well as the number of female heads of state over the last 50 years.
At the Huffington Post article there’s a graphic showing the top 25 and bottom 25 countries. Not surprisingly, most of the top countries are in northern Europe, while most of the bottom are in the Muslim Middle East.
Addendum: The day I posted this, I later went to film an event. I’m a professional videographer; I had my large hi-definition video camera on a tripod. At one point while I was waiting for the event to start I was standing near my camera talking with a man who was a part of the event. A second man came up to us and, looking straight at the first man, said, “That’s a bad place for your camera.” The first guy replied, “That’s not my camera,” and number two just started walking away, without giving me a glance. Clearly he assumed that no woman could be associated with that kind of camera. Believe me, I have seen this prejudice before.
I said, “That’s my camera, and that’s the only spot I can shoot from. And who are you?” He turned to me and apologized, saying he was doing the lighting for the event.
How telling of attitudes towards women in 2012 in the U.S.A.