Until recently, I thought French women had it good. They'd invented a magic diet whereby cheese makes them skinnier, and they get all the free maternity care a woman could want. Then the DSK scandal broke this year, unleashing some ugly truths about chauvinism in France. It was perhaps in that "aha!" spirit that a fair amount of the press coverage of the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap 2011 report, which was released today, honed in gleefully on the fact that France is #48 out 135, four places behind Kyrgyzstan where, if I have my misogynistic traditional customs GPS tuned right, bride kidnapping is still kind of a big thing. (Although some might argue that repeated alleged sexual assault charges share some similarities with the taking of a bride by force.) From the NYT/IHT piece:
France poses even more questions. Although it is at the top in education and health, it ranks only middling on women’s economic and political influence. Saadia Zahidi of the World Economic Forum, a co-author of the report, explained in an interview that France scored 3.48 on a scale of 1 to 7 in the ability of Frenchwomen to rise to positions of enterprise leadership.
That, she said, suggested that France had a “corporate culture that does not encourage the rise of women” and was an indicator that helping women to move up the ladder “is not a major part of corporate policies.”
Then there are the Scandinavian frontrunners. These results surprise me like a pre-revolutionary Egyptian election result: "Iceland claimed the No. 1 position for the third year in a row, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden." (Bloomberg)
Then, sadly, there's the MENA region, clinging stubbornly to its collectively lousy rankings while the world's other regions sail by:
In the Arab world, the gender gap is so wide that the United Arab Emirates enjoys the best record with a lowly rank of 103, while Saudi Arabia and Yemen hug the bottom rungs. (NYT)
Regrettably, I missed this morning's press briefing in New York, but here's a roundup of today's coverage of the 375-page report, written by Professor Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Center for International Development at Harvard, Professor Laura D. Tyson S.K. and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management at Stanford, and Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director Women Leaders and Gender Parity program at the WEF. Hats off to all of them for this gigantic annual undertaking.
It's interesting that almost all of the headlines focus on the negative.
- The IHT: Progress for Women, but a Long Way to Go
- Reuters: Women still lag economics, politics: report
- Bloomberg Businessweek: Fewer Nations Made Progress to Close Gender Gap, Study Says
- And lastly Forbes coming in with the tired-ass headline: The Best and Worst Countries for Women
By the way, here's what I did this morning while I wasn't at the press briefing: I ran around Bobst Library doing a scavenger hunt and coming down with a severe case of Library Syndrome, in which I daydream intensely of retiring at 30 and spending the rest of my days checking out books and reading them in bed. There's an amazing cookbook section that begs for a daylong visit on a snowy day over winter break.