Progress Toward Gender Equality 'Stalled' in North America in 2019, Study Shows

North America is falling behind most of the world on gender equity, according to the World Economic Forum's annual study, "Global Gender Gap Report 2020."

The latest iteration of the annual report, released Monday, found that most of the world is still far from closing the "gender gap." The term refers to discrepancies between the amount of pay men and women receive for the same work, as well as disparities between the genders in terms of "health, education, work and politics," according to the WEF. The organization has released a report on the gender gap each year since 2006. While most countries remain decades away from parity between the genders, the United States may be falling behind.

The report analyzed 153 countries to measure their gender equality across four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

Breaking up the countries individually as well as into regions, the WEF estimated that North America will not close its gender gap until the year 2170—151 years in the future—if efforts toward gender equity continue at their current pace, according to the report. The region performed worse than Western Europe (where the gender gap will be closed in an estimated 54 years), Latin America and the Caribbean (59 years), Sub-Saharan Africa (91 years) and every other region other than East Asia, where the WEF predicted the gap would not close until 2182.

Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), called the U.S.'s timeline for equality "simply astounding" and "unacceptable" in a statement emailed to Newsweek. "We must also recognize that figures such as these are based on averages. For women of color the wait could be even longer. We want equality NOW." Van Pelt also called for the U.S. to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment "so that women have the same constitutional legal rights as men."

The United States also fell two places to 53rd in the ranking in terms of overall gender equality. Just ahead of the United States was Cape Verde, a country of about 540,000 people that was formerly a Portuguese colony. Singapore followed the United States in 54th place. Canada, the only other country in the report's North America region, came in at 19th.

The WEF chalked up the U.S.'s lower ranking to a lack of progress since last year.

"The United States' progress towards gender parity is stalling," the report read, "and the country registers a similar overall score to last year (72.4 percent of the gap closed so far). ... The standstill is mostly explained by a small retraction in its Economic Participation and Opportunity performance, where the progress towards equal wages takes a step back and at the same time income (wages and non-wages) gaps remain large."

Along with gender income disparity, American women have remained vastly underrepresented in leadership positions in the country, according to the WEF. The forum's report noted that, among U.S. companies, only 21.7 percent of members of corporate managing boards are women. Further, women only occupied 23 percent of members of the House of Representatives and a quarter of all seats in the Senate.

The report noted that the U.S. was one of 85 countries—a shrinking majority—that had never had a woman head of state.

In an email to Newsweek, WEF economist Roberto Crotti wrote that to close the gender gap in North America more quickly, the U.S. should implement policies that guarantee equal wages to women and eliminate factors that keep women out of leadership roles.

"For instance, better care infrastructure (i.e., child care) that could allow women to pursue a career and cultural campaigns to reduce resistances towards women-managers are likely to help to improve economic opportunities for women at a faster rate," Crotti wrote.

Women's March in Washington D.C.
One day after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, an estimated 600,000 anti-Trump protestors fill the streets during the Women's March on January 21, 2017 held in the area surrounding the Washington Mall. Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty

Update: This story has been updated to include comments from the World Economic Forum and the National Organization for Women.