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WOMEN AND POWER : Speaking Of: : Women's Status

June 29, 1993

"No country treats its women as well as it treats its men, a disappointing result sfter so many years of gender equality, so many struggles by women and so may changes in national laws," concludes a new U.N. report. But women do hold positions of power in many counyties.

Women in Parliament

"We're half the people; we should be half the Congress," said Jeanette Rankin (R-Mont.), elected in 1916 as the first U.S. congresswoman. But nowhere in the world is this true, by one survey. Finland, at 38.5%, is credited with the highest pecentage. The United States now has a total of 10.3% women in the U.S. House and Senate.

Women Who Rule

Only seven women in the world run national governments.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister, Norway

Kim Campbell, Prime Minister, Canada

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, President, Nicaragua

Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister, Dominica

Tansu Ciller, Prime Minister-elect, Turkey

Hanna Suchocka, Prime Minister, Poland

Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister, Bangladesh

Women Who Reign

ZEight women act as heads of state, either as monarch, president or governor general. In general, they exercise little political power.

Governor General Nita Barrow, Barbados

Governor General Elmira Minita Gordon, Belize

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain

Queen Margrethe II, Denmark

President Vigdis Flnnbogadottir (elected), Iceland

President Mary Robinson (elected), Ireland

Queen Beatrix, Netherlands

Governor General Catherine Tizard, New Zealand

The Gender Gap

In 1990, the U.N. Development Program introduced a new yardstick of human progress meant to be much more comprehensive than national wealth alone. Called the Human Development Index (HDI), this measure combines indicators of health and education as well as purchasing power.

In its Human Development Report 1993, the United Nations for the first time calculates a separate female HDI for 33 countries from which comparable data is available. A comparison of countries' overall HDI scores and their female HDI scores shows the size of the "gender gap" in each.

In some cases, the gap is substantial. Japan, for example, has the world's highest HDI rating but falls to 17th on the female HDO scale. By contrast, Sweden jumps from fifth on the overall HDI scale to first on the female version.

In industrial countries, gender discrimination is mainly in employment and wages, with women often getting less than two-thirds of the employment opportunities and about half the earnings of men. In developing countries, the great disparities besides those in the job market, are in health care, nutritional support and education.

Percentage difference between overall HDI Index in selected countries: South Korea: -36/4% Kenya: -34.7% Hong Kong: -32.3% Singapre: -31.1% Cyprus: -26.3% Costa Rica: -25.8% Philippines: -25.2% Swaziland: -24.9% Sri Lanka: -24.7% Luxembourg: -24.4% Myanmar: -23.8% Greece: -23.4% Japan: -22.4% Ireland: -22.2% Switzerland: -21.5% Portugal: -21.2% Germany: -19.7% Austria: -17.9% Italy: -17.3% Canada: -16.9% United States: -15.6% Czechoslovakia*: -15.5% Belgium: -15.1% Britain: -15.1% Netherlands: -14.8% Paraguay: -14.8% Australia: -12.3% France: -11.0% New Zealand: -10.9% Finland: -10.0% Denmark: -9.9% Norway: -9.9% Sweden: -5.7%

* Czechoslovakia as of 1991, before division into Czech and Slovak republics SOURCE: U.N. Development Program "Human Development Report 1993."

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