Why Isn’t The U.S. A Top 5 Country for Women

As of 2021, the United States had the largest economy in the world.* However, the PwC Women in Work Index for 2019 ranks the United States a disappointing 23rd on their list of best countries for female workers, situated between France and the Czech Republic and significantly below similar G7 countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. What makes a country a top pick for women workers? And, since workforce equality is good for women and the national gross domestic product (GDP), what can the United States do to improve its rank?

The PwC has the following countries in the top five (5) spots:

  1. Iceland
  2. Sweden
  3. New Zealand
  4. Slovenia
  5. Norway

Countries on the PwC Index are ranked based on factors including the gap between female and male earnings, female labor force participation rate, the gap between male and female labor force participation rate, female unemployment rate, and the share of female employees in full-time employment. These specific metrics are driven by a wide range of factors, as indicated by the similar policies seen in the top 5 countries.

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: Paid maternity leave is a major driver of female workforce participation rates. All five top countries on the PwC list have comprehensive paid parental leave policies, reaching over a year in some cases (Pew Research). This is a stark contrast to the United States – where the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees only 12 weeks of leave, which is unpaid. Only 20% of United States employers offer any paid maternity leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This lack of paid leave could stand in the way of women entering the workforce, or cause severe disruption to their careers upon starting a family. A change in the United States parental leave structure could have a meaningful impact on women’s workforce participation rates since in organizations with no paid maternity leave, 30% of women leave the company within a year of giving birth**.

CHILDCARE: One of the biggest obstacles for working women in the United States is the cost of childcare – which averages almost $10,000 per year***, more than the cost of many in-state colleges’ yearly tuition. Households in the U.S. regularly pay up to 30% of their monthly income in childcare costs, a stark contrast to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED). CNN reported that a recent study in Kenya found that women are 17% more likely to work if receiving a voucher to offset childcare costs, indicating the U.S. may be able to make a meaningful impact on women’s work lives by providing high-quality and state-backed childcare options

Regarding workforce equality, the U.S. has several strong policies in its favor. These include non-discrimination laws protecting women in hiring, firing and promotion decisions, and guaranteeing equal access to education along with statutes protecting women from workplace sexual harassment and encouraging equal pay (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor). But, to become a true superstar economy for women, the U.S. would need to make some big changes to paid leave and childcare options, following in the footsteps of the current PwC top 5 for women in the workplace.

At Career Mastered, we’re interested in your opinions on what else American employers can do to boost the United States to the top spot on this list. Tell us your story at info@careermastered.com.

Hadley Roy is a career web analyst with a passion for content creation. She currently works with Campbell Ewald providing optimization, reporting, and UX analyses for a range of national and multi-national brands

Source: *Investopedia, December 2021 **Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) ***CNN

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