Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's signing of the Equal Pay Act. This "milestone" legislation was designed to eliminate the gender-based wage gap in the United States workforce, yet today the average woman is still making only 77 cents to every dollar made by the average man. Yesterday's holiday presents an opportunity to cite a few facts about gender equality in the U.S. and around the world.
The Global Gender Gap Report for 2012 ranks the U.S. as 22nd in the world for gender equality. Although 22nd doesn't sound that bad, a closer look at the statistics shows that this ranking is certainly not satisfactory. Consider, for example, the fact that Iceland — the country ranked first — is more than two times further ahead of the U.S. in terms of gender equality than the U.S. is ahead of China. In other words, Iceland has a gender equality index that is 17% greater than that of the U.S., whereas the U.S. has an index only 7% greater than that of China.
An even more illustrative example can be made by including in the comparison the gender equality index of Iran. Iceland is about as far ahead of the U.S. in terms of gender equality as the U.S. is ahead of Iran. To put that into perspective, I would like to draw attention to the fact that Iran has in place many discriminatory laws, such as those legitimizing honor killings, compulsory veiling, women's rights and duties in marriage, and the minimum age for marriage (8 years and 9 months for girls), among others.