When I read the title of a Washington Post article “The U.S. is catching up to Europe on gender equality”, it came as a bit of a surprise – had they so much catching up to do? Besides, I hadn’t noticed that much of a gender equality discrepancy any time recently in Europe – or more specifically France, which is where I have been an on-again, off-again inhabitant for the last 17 years. (Mind you, there are definitely worse places to be a woman like Algeria (ranked 120th), another place in which I was an erstwhile resident.)
Little wonder. The 2012 World Economic Forum report is pretty damning on the subject, ranking France 57th after most other Western nations, including Spain (26th), (though spectacularly outdone by Italy which ranked 80th) and other more seemingly unlikely candidates – the Philippines, Malawi, Mozambique, Jamaica and even Kazakhstan. France was only marginally outdone by Israel and Singapore, but in turn only marginally outdid the Russian Federation.
The ranking is based on the measurement of four metrics - economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment – and has been in free fall from 15 in 2008. So let's look at the figures:
Eighty-two percent of French women work fulltime, and perform an average of over 5 hours of housework and sundry other domestic tasks, twice that of their male partners.
French women are generally well-educated and overall better and longer educated than their male counterparts. However, they earn 27% less on average. The World Economic Forum ranks France a rather confounding 131 for gender pay parity.
France legalized medical contraception in 1967, abortion in 1975 and in terms of access to healthcare, France ranks particularly well.
Women account for 53 percent of French voters but are not courted as they are in the US for instance. The pandering Hollande, picking up voter scraps, boasted complete parity is his government naming 17 women ministers out of 34 - only to entrust 1 big ministry (Justice) to them. Let’s see how many of them last.
So what does this say about one of the largest European economic powers and most progressive societies? That French women seem to have it all - the job, the multiple children, the healthcare (including, amusingly enough, state-funded vaginal gymnastics, as common as aspirin, to get back in the proverbial saddle), the free daycare, and as a New York Times article put it, often coupled with “a figure to die for” - along with chronic exhaustion and a considerable stash of anti-depressants, of which French women are the biggest consumers. Food for thought.
Written by Candice Lewis
Click here for the WEF report - http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-gender-gap