It’s 100 years since US women got the right to vote, but how has gender equality changed?

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content


  • This year marks the 100th anniversary of US women getting the right to vote.
  • But data from the Global Gender Report shows there’s still a long way to go to reach gender parity in the US and globally.
  • Globally, we’re another 100 years away from equality.

On 18 August 2020 it was the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment – which guaranteed US women the right to vote. However, it still took decades for African American women and other minority groups to secure voting rights.

And, it was preceded by decades of protest and struggle. The amendment was first introduced in Congress nearly half a century earlier, in 1878.

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By 1912, nine western states had adopted suffrage legislation, but it wasn’t until 1918 that President Woodrow Wilson changed his position to support the amendment.

The House of Representatives and Senate passed it in 1919. And when, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it on 18 August 1920, it was adopted.

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house, 1917
Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house, 1917. Image: Wikimedia Commons

100 years on…

So, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was ratified, what’s the state of gender equality in the US today?

It came 53rd of 153 economies in the latest World Economic Gender Gap Report, suggesting there’s still work to be done. The report – published pre-pandemic – puts the United States just below Cape Verde, Luxembourg and Bangladesh.

gender parity equality women United States Global Gender Gap Report
Work to do. Image: World Economic Forum – Gender Gap Report 2020

The reasons? Progress towards parity is stalling, says the report. Wage and income gaps remain large – just 65.6% of the income gap is closed. And, while women are relatively well represented in middle and high management roles, less than a quarter of corporate managing board members are women.

women leadership corporate board of directors gender parity
Lacking leadership? Image: World Economic Forum – Global Gender Gap Report 2020

Equally, 100 years after they won the right to vote, women are under-represented in political leadership roles. There has been a significant increase in the number of women in parliament in ministerial positions, though.

Gender parity is “virtually achieved” in the health and educational attainment indices. Indeed, women outnumber the number of men in tertiary education. Female enrolment rates are also above 90% across all education levels.

…and 100 years to go

The report offers sobering news: globally gender parity won’t be attained for another 99.5 years, and in the US, that figure rises to 151 years.

And, while women across the globe are benefiting from greater political representation, the report cautions it’s still the worst performing area.

women political empowerment politics gender equality
Women are underrepresented globally. Image: World Economic Forum – Global Gender Gap Report 2020

Women still account for just 25% of available parliamentary positions globally. And, the picture is worse at ministerial level – with women securing just 21% of positions. Over the last half century, there are also 85 countries that have had no female head of state.

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