International Women’s Day shows there is still a long way to go to reach equality

International Women’s Day, recognized March 8 each year, is a day in which we are encouraged to celebrate women in all their glory — their contributions and rights as members of the human race.

The United States observes many rights of women. We (if we are lucky) don’t have to ask our husband’s permission to leave the home, we can drive and we may play sports. We can also embrace our bodies however we choose.

However, despite these advances, we still have a long way to go.

According to CNN, 84 percent of countries, including Afghanistan, have clear stipulations and guidelines in their constitutions promoting and ensuring gender equality. The U.S., alarmingly, does not. Haven’t we learned anything? The fact that this principle is absent from the basic text, which we look to as a country, is scary. If we ignore women’s right in the constitution, where else do we overlook women?

The answer? Almost everywhere.

One of these is in the issue of maternity leave. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. At the same time that we are ridiculed and criticized for going to work immediately after delivering a baby, we are also ridiculed and criticized for staying at home, unable to make any money. Unlike the United States, France guarantees 16 weeks of maternity leave and 26 weeks if the woman is giving birth to her third child. Estonia gives two years. America is the one of four high-income countries in the world without this.  

That’s embarrassing.

Speaking of income, the U.S. ranks 65 out of 142 in wage equality. The top countries that practice this are Egypt, Russia, Thailand, Honduras and Ethiopia. Women only make 78 cents to the dollar in 2013 compared to men in almost every occupation. This is disturbing and unfair, especially for women of color, where the margin is even larger — 68 cents to the dollar compared to men for working Hispanic females.

And speaking of jobs, in terms of leadership, women hold only 20 percent of seats in Congress, and four men to every one woman is on a board in the 500 biggest corporations in the U.S. versus Norway, where they have taken measures to instill quotas for corporate board seats (40 percent must be filled by women). Norway inspired Spain and the Netherlands to follow suit. Women in Norway also make up 40 percent of Parliament.

And don’t even get me started on healthcare and reproductive health, in which simply being a woman is a pre-existing condition, and the “Pink Tax” is a tax on luxury items such as tampons because, you know, that’s a luxury for women.

While we have made some strides, we have a significant way to go before we become a truly gender-balanced world.