Women in the United States

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Women in the United States
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)14 (2015)
Women in parliament19.5% (2015)
Women over 25 with secondary education95.4% (2015)
Women in labour force56.0% (2015)
Gender Inequality Index
Value0.203 (2015)[1]
Rank43rd out of 159
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value0.720 (2018)

The legal status of women in the United States is, in comparison to other countries, equal to men, however, among other similar laws, the United States has never ratified the U.N's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.


Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women[edit]

The United States has never ratified the U.N.'s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, although it played an important role in drafting the treaty.[3][4] As of 2014, the United States is thus one of only seven nations which have not ratified it – also including Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Tonga.[5]

Equal Rights Amendment[edit]

37 states as of March 2019 have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment; 38 states are required to ratify it to make it an amendment to the Constitution. Several states originally ratified the amendment, but subsequently rescinded the ratification.[6]


Child marriage, as defined by UNICEF, is observed in the United States. The UNICEF definition of child marriage includes couples who are formally married, or who live together as a sexually active couple in an informal union, with at least one member — usually the girl — being less than 18 years old.[7][8] The latter practice is more common in the United States, and it is officially called cohabitation. Laws regarding child marriage vary in the different states of the United States. Generally, children 16 and over may marry with parental consent, with the age of 18 being the minimum in all but two states to marry without parental consent. Those under 16 generally require a court order in addition to parental consent.[9]

Parental leave[edit]

The United States is the only high income country not to provide required paid parental leave.[10]

Reproductive rights[edit]

Birth control is legal nationwide as of 2014.[11][12] Abortion is legal nationwide as of 2014; however, states are allowed to place regulations on abortion which fall short of prohibition after the first trimester of pregnancy.[13][14]

Politics and government[edit]

President and Vice President[edit]

A woman has never been President of the United States. Kamala Harris is the first woman to become Vice President of the United States, in 2021.

United States House of Representatives[edit]

The first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives was in 1917, Jeannette Rankin, she represented Montana. Women who served before her were finishing someone else's term who died in office or had resigned.[15]

In 2007,Nancy Pelosi was elected the 52nd Speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi is the only woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker. In 2019 she was again elected Speaker for the 2nd time (55th) and the first former Speaker to return to the position since 1955. Pelosi the highest ranking female elected official and second in the presidential line of succession.

United States Senate[edit]

In its first 130 years in existence, the Senate was entirely male. In 1931, Hattie Wyatt Caraway was the first woman win election to the United States Senate. Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate in 1949. In 1992, an unprecedent four women were elected to the Senate, Patty Murray, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Carol Moseley Braun who was also the first woman of color in the Senate.

Presidential Cabinet[edit]

In 1933 Frances Perkins was appointed United States Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. In 1949, Georgia Neese Clark was the first woman appointed Treasurer of the United States followed by Oveta Culp Hobby as United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953.

The 1970s would see several women appointed for the first time in cabinet positions such as Carla Anderson Hills, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1975, Juanita M. Kreps, United States Secretary of Commerce in 1977 and Shirley Hufstedler, Secretary of Education in 1979.

In the 1980s, Elizabeth Dole was appointed United States Secretary of Transportation in 1983. Elaine Chao would become third woman and first Asian American to hold this position in 2017. Susan Engeleiter was appointed the head of the Small Business Administration in 1989.

In the 1993, Janet Reno as United States Attorney General and Sheila Widnall as United States Secretary of the Air Force were the first women appointed to their positions. Three women have served as United States Secretary of State. The first was Madeleine Albright in 1997. In 2005 Condoleeza Rice became the second woman and first person of color to serve in this position, She was succeeded by former First Lady of the United States and U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton in 2009.

Ann Veneman as United States Secretary of Agriculture, Gale Norton, United States Secretary of the Interior and Susan Livingstone, United States Secretary of the Navy were all the first women appointed to their positions in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

Janet Napolitano became the first woman to be appointed United States Secretary of Homeland Security in 2009 and Gina Haspel was the first woman appointed Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2018.

As of 2019, there are 102 women of 435 total in the U.S. House of Representatives, 89 Democrats, 13 Republicans. Of 100 members of the U.S. Senate, there are 25 women senators, 17 Democrats, 8 Republicans. There are 9 women state governors, 6 Democrats, 3 Republicans; there are 15 Lt. Governors, 9 Democrats, 6 Republicans. In state legislatures there are 2,121 women.[16]

On the Supreme Court, there are three women justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett. The first woman justice was Sandra Day O'Connor followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Desire to leave the United States[edit]

According to a Gallup poll from January 2019, 40 percent of women under the age of 30 would like to leave the United States, with most preferring Canada as a place to live for a better life.[17]


Gender equality ranking[edit]

As of 2017, the United States is ranked 49th of 142 applicable countries in gender equality on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index.[18]



As of 2014, women in the United States earn more post-secondary (college and graduate school) degrees than men do.[19]


As of 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, average age at first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men.[20]


As of 2014, women are 46.5% of the total United States workforce.[21]

Sex discrimination has been outlawed in non-ministerial employment in the United States since 1964 nationwide; however, under a judicially created doctrine called the "ministerial exemption," religious organizations are immune from sex discrimination suits brought by "ministerial employees," a category that includes such religious roles as priests, imams or kosher supervisors.[22][23]

A woman's median salary in the United States has increased over time, although as of 2014 it is only 77% of man's median salary, a phenomenon often referred to as the Gender Pay Gap. (A woman's average salary is reported as 84% of a man's average salary.)[24][25] Whether this is due to discrimination is very hotly disputed, while economists and sociologists have provided evidence both supporting[26][27][28] and debunking[29][30] this assertion.


Violence against women has been recognized as a public health concern in the United States.[31] Culture in the country has promoted the trivialization women-directed violence, with media in the United States creating the appearance of violence against women unimportant to the public.[32]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice reports that about 1 in every 4 women suffer from at least one physical assault experience from a partner during adulthood.[33] Studies have found that around 20% of women in the United States have been victims of rape[34][35] with many incidents of rape being underreported according to a 2013 study.[36]

In 2017, the United States was ranked the world's 9th safest country for women by the New World Wealth research group.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 5: Gender Inequality Index - Human Development Reports 2015". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  2. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2018" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 10–11.
  3. ^ Baldez, Lisa. "U.S. drops the ball on women's rights". cnn.com. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  4. ^ "cedaw2014.org – Just another WordPress site". cedaw2014.org. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  5. ^ "cedaw2014.org – Just another WordPress site". cedaw2014.org. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  6. ^ https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/ accessed 18 March 2019
  7. ^ Child Marriage UNICEF (2011)
  8. ^ Child Marriage ICRW (2010)
  9. ^ www.usmarriagelaws.com
  10. ^ "In Paid Family Leave, U.S. Trails Most of the Globe". New York Times. February 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  11. ^ "Griswold v. Connecticut, The Impact of Legal Birth Control and the Challenges that Remain". Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Katharine Dexter McCormick Library. May 2000. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Dunlap, Bridgette (March 22, 2013). "Eisenstadt v. Baird: The 41st Anniversary of Legal Contraception for Single People". RH Reality Check. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  13. ^ "Roe v. Wade". Law.cornell.edu. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  14. ^ "Abortion Rate in 1994 Hit a 20-Year Low". The New York Times. January 5, 1997. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  15. ^ "Mississippi Is Sending Its First Woman To Congress. Here's When Your State Did That". National Public Radio. March 21, 2018. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  16. ^ Center for American Women in Politics, Rutgers University http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/current-numbers accessed 18 March 2019
  17. ^ The Editors (2019-01-14). "Record Numbers of Americans Want to Leave the U.S." Gallup. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  18. ^ "India Slides, US Gains in Gender Equality Ranking". ABC News.
  19. ^ "Mitch McConnell says more women graduate from college than men do". PolitiFact. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
  20. ^ The Editors (2013-03-15). "Getting Married Later Is Great for College-Educated Women - Eleanor Barkhorn". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
  21. ^ "Aug 2014 Diversity Jobs Report: Women Make Up 46.5% of Workforce - WCC Blog". blog.womenscareerchannel.com. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Featured Document: The 19th Amendment". Archives.gov. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  23. ^ Caroline Mala Corbin (2007). "Above the Law? The Constitutionality of the Ministerial Exemption from Antidiscrimination Law". Fordham Law Review, Volume 75, Issue 4, Article 3. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  24. ^ "Barack Obama, in State of the Union, says women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns". politifact.com. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  25. ^ Fitzpatrick, Laura (April 20, 2010). "Why Do Women Still Earn Less Than Men?". Time.
  26. ^ Men and Women of the Corporation: New Edition (3 November 1993). Kanter, Men and Women of the Corporation, Basic Books, 1977. ISBN 0465044549.
  27. ^ "Office of the White House, Council of Economic Advisors, 1998, IV. Discrimination". Clinton4.nara.gov. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  28. ^ "Levine, Report for Congress, "The Gender Gap and Pay Equity: Is Comparable Worth the Next Step?", Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 2003" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  29. ^ Sommers, Christina Hoff (February 1, 2014). "No, Women DON'T Make Less Money than Men". The Daily Beast.
  30. ^ Biggs, Andrew G., Perry, Mark J. (April 7, 2014). "The '77 Cents on the Dollar' Myth About Women's Pay". The Wall Street Journal.
  31. ^ Wright, Paul J.; Tokunaga, Robert S. (May 2016). "Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 45 (4): 955–964. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0644-8. PMID 26585169. S2CID 20376803.
  32. ^ Stankiewicz, Julie M.; Rosselli, Francine (2008). "Women as Sex Objects and Victims in Print Advertisements". Sex Roles. 58 (7–8): 579–589. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9359-1. S2CID 143452062.
  33. ^ The Violence Against Women Act of 2005, Summary of Provisions. National Network to End Domestic Violence. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  34. ^ Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
  35. ^ Kilpatrick, Dean G.; Resnick, Heidi S.; Ruggiero, Kenneth J.; Conoscenti, Lauren M.; McCauley, Jenna (July 2007). "Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study" (PDF). National Criminal Justice Reference Service. United States Department of Justice. pp. 43–45. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  36. ^ National Research Council. Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013.
  37. ^ Australia, Chris Pash, Business Insider. "The 10 safest countries in the world for women". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-03-23.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosenau, William (2019). Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group. New York: Atria Books. ISBN 978-1501170126.