In an election year that has largely lacked in policy, gender issues have taken center stage in recent weeks, in light of a slew of sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump that subsequently placed added emphasis on the lack of equality between men and women. Until this point, these issues had been largely absent from the campaign trail, to the detriment of both Hillary Clinton and Trump—and ultimately, the United States.
Gender inequality in the United States is, in part, a result of antiquated social structures that disempower women, including the lack of guaranteed paid parental leave, the lack of paid sick days and paid vacations, and the lack of universal access to affordable and high-quality childcare. When parental leaves are not guaranteed nor paid, when childcare can cost more than college tuition, and when an employer might not allow their employees to stay home to care for a sick child, having one parent cut back on work while the other keeps working long hours can be the only rational choice. More often than not the one putting brakes on their career is the woman.
The World Economic Forum has been tracking gender equality for years. In this year’s Gender Gap report, the United States ranked 45th among countries in gender equality, as measured by differences in men and women’s health, education, economic participation and opportunity, as well as political empowerment—a drop from 2015 when the United States came in at 28. The drop is partly due to a revision in the study’s estimate of differences in American men and women’s income. The report, however, also concludes that over the past year American women’s participation in the labor force has declined. It further points to stagnation in female participation in key professions, including lawmakers, senior officials, and managers.