August 26, which is Women’s Equality Day the United States, is a perfect moment to review the current state of women’s equality around the world.  

This date was chosen (in 1971) to commemorate the day in 1920 when U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation which granted American women the right to vote.

To put things in perspective, and analyze the progress made since 1971, here we present some interesting facts:

  1. In the USA, by 2015, 56.7% of women participate in the labor force, and the number has increased to 73.5 million. (Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor)
  2. Since 2006, an extra quarter of a billion women has entered the labor force globally. The biggest progress towards closing the gender gap has been in politics. (World Economic Forum, 2015).
  3. 56 of the 146 nations (38%) studied by the World Economic Forum (2014-2016) have had a female head of government for at least a year in the past half-century. (Pew Research Center, 2017)
  4. As of January 2017, ten women were serving as Head of State and nine as Head of Government, and 3% of government ministers were women. (UNWomen.org, 2017)
  5. In Europe (EU-28) the proportion of women aged 30-34 that had attained tertiary education exceeded that for men by 9.5 p.p. All Member States, except Germany, recorded a negative gender gap in tertiary education attainment. (Gender statistics, Eurostat 2017)
  6. Africa’s first elected female Head of State, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia will complete her second and final term tenure this year. In October 2017, Liberians will head again to the polls. Women constitute half of the over two million registered voters.(UN Women, 2017)
  7. In 2015, for the first time in history, Saudi women were able to cast votes and run for seats in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia (130,637 women registered to vote, and Saudi women won 20 of the 2100 municipal seats.) (org, 2015)

women's vote

Although many years have passed since, and considerable progress has been made, women’s equality remains as significant as it was a century ago. In fact, Goal 5 of the of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals reads ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. According to the UN’s own website, ‘Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large’

As a company committed to strengthening democracy throgh better election processes, we have seen first hand how making elections more inclusive and transparent can have a positive impact in gender equality. In 2009 Smartmatic assisted Bolivian authorities creating its first biometric voter register. Using portable biometrics-capturing devices, authorities were able to reach every corner of the territory. Only five years later, and thanks to gender quotas law passed by congress, a voter register comprised by a majority of women elected the first House of Representatives of the National Assembly in which women represent more than 50%.

Sources: Werehistory.org, Nwhp.org, UN Women, Dol.gov, Wikipedia (Women’s Equality Day), Visual.ly/womens-equality-day.

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