Reprinted with permission from the American Association of University Women
Halloween is the perfect time to tell ghost stories. But there’s nothing scarier than the true story of gender inequality in the United States. Forget ghouls, goblins, and graveyards—these 10 statistics on women’s equality reflect a reality far scarier than whatever comes out to haunt on Halloween.
1. So far this year, state legislatures have introduced at least 235 bills to restrict women’s reproductive rights.
In recent months, Americans across the country have tirelessly helped fight attempts by Congress to dangerously limit women’s access to affordable health care. To date, at least 27 states are considered hostile to abortion rights. We love The Handmaid’s Tale, but only because it’s fiction—and what’s happening across America is all too real. There’s nothing more frightening than a politician who doesn’t trust a woman to make her own informed choices about her health.
2. When it comes to achieving equal pay, change moves at a glacial pace.
At this rate, it could be more than 100 years before women are paid as much as men are. It’s past time for Congress—and 2016 candidates—to work on those equal pay platforms and get pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act. That way maybe our great-great-granddaughters will have fair pay.
3. For the millions of Americans without paid sick days, deciding to stay home to care for a sick child or other family member could jeopardize their jobs or family income.
The cost is especially high for working mothers, more than half of whom report that they must miss work and often go without pay when caring for a sick child. Low-wage workers are especially hard hit, with 70 percent receiving no paid sick days. These low-wage workers often must go to work sick and contagious in industries that endanger public health, such as food service.
4. 1 in 5 women in the United States, or a total of 23 million women, has been sexually assaulted in college.
LGBT individuals also face disproportionately high rates of sexual violence. According to a recent study, nearly 40 percent of transgender, queer and other gender-nonconforming seniors reported that they had been the victims of nonconsensual sexual contact at least once since enrolling in college. Partly due to shame, stigma and fear, the majority of sexual assaults go unreported.
5. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today.
In less than 10 years, the United States will need 1.7 million more engineers and computing professionals. We simply can’t afford to ignore the perspectives or the talent of half the population.
6. Despite recent historic gains, the percentage of women running for Congress has plateaued.
Many states have yet to elect a woman governor or woman senator, and only two women of color, Mazie Hirono and Carol Moseley Braun, have ever served in the U.S. Senate. Research shows that stereotypes and gender bias are largely to blame for keeping women out of leadership positions. If we want change, it’s imperative that we train and empower women to run for office.
7. You know what’s a really scary thought? Having to choose between keeping a job and caring for a new child.
But that’s the reality for most Americans, 87 percent of whom lack access to paid family leave. It’s critical that Congress pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) and ensure that employees can afford to take the leave they need to care for themselves and their families.
8. As AAUW’s research shows, women from all walks of life experience the gender pay gap, and it’s even worse for women of color.
At 63 cents to the dollar, that earnings ratio means it takes the typical black woman nearly seven extra months to be paid what the average white man took home back on December 31. Hispanic and Latina women face the worst pay disparity, getting paid only 54 percent of what white men get paid.
9. Only 24, or just under 5 percent, of Fortune 500 companies are led by women.
This represents some improvement from, say, 1998, when only one woman led a Fortune 500 company. According to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, a girl born in 2015 will be 81 years old before she has the same chance as a man to be a CEO. Talk about scary.
10. The majority of Americans mistakenly believe that women and men have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution.
While the 14th Amendment explicitly states that men are guaranteed equality under law, it’s poignantly silent when it comes to women. The Equal Rights Amendment would provide the constitutional guarantee that all women and men are truly equal under the law, including when it comes to sex discrimination in employment, Social Security, education, you name it.
Renee Davidson is AAUW’s social media manager, a feminist writer and an activist living in D.C. Her work has been published by Salon, Bitch, PolicyMic, Fem2pt0 and more. Follow her at @reneetheorizes.