How American Women Compare

As women's history month comes to an end, we bring you a few trends and cool facts that compare American women to others across the globe.

Statistically Speaking

How American Women Compare

A look around the globe

-Kellyanne Conway the pollingcompany/WomanTrend

diverse group of womenAs Women’s History Month comes to an end, we bring you a few trends and cool facts that compare American women to others across the globe, celebrating the differences that make women unique and the similarities that connect us all.

1. Location, Location, Location. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook, location is not just a valuable determinant in real estate markets, but an important factor in longevity of life. From just 32 years in Swaziland to a lengthy 84 years in the Macau Special Administrative Region in China, the 2009 list tracks the estimated life expectancy in countries across the world. For all of the domestic medical and technological advances in this county, the United States ranks 49th on the life expectancy list, falling behind other traditional world leaders like France (#19), Germany (#32), and the United Kingdom (#36), and some not-so-expected players like Anguilla (#15) and Malta (#29). According to the 2009 estimates, American men can look forward to 75 long years, while American women will celebrate 81 birthdays. Those aiming to be a centenarian could relocate to one of the top 10 countries on the life expectancy list, which includes Macau, Andorra, Japan, Singapore, San Marino, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, France and Sweden.

2. Getting Hitched. The average age in the United States for a woman to get married is 25 years old, compared to the global average of 28.1, a figure that has increased steadily the last 50 years. Experts point to more women taking advantage of educational and professional opportunities in their early 20s as delaying a focus on the family until slightly later in life, among other cultural factors. Women in Sweden and Denmark are over 30 years old when they first get hitched. According to CIA’s The World Factbook, compared to other countries, Americans are racing down the aisle, and then on to divorce court. The United States tops the list of countries in both the number of marriages (9.8 per 1,000 people) and divorces (4.95 per 1,000 people) per year.

3. Family Finds. One list on which the United States is certainly not top is the global ranking of fertility rate – that is, the number of children born per woman, as published in the CIA The World Factbook. The United States enjoys the 126th spot on the list, with the average number of children born per woman at just over two. Third world countries have the highest fertility rates in the world, some between seven and eight children per woman. With the growing popularity of fertility treatments and frequency of multiple births in the United States, we may see our ranking on the rise in the near future. “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to eight children in January through IVF treatment, is certainly doing her part to challenge other countries for the top spot on this list!

4. Hit the Books. The American education system has been receiving sharp criticism for its lack of global competitiveness, even from its recent graduates! In a nationwide telephone survey conducted by the polling companyTM, inc./WomanTrend in 2008 on behalf of American Solutions for Winning the Future, fully 61% of women believed Americans were held to lower academic standards than students in other countries, and 45% of women said that the quality of math and science education in the U.S. is worse than in most other countries. Despite this sentiment, the average female student in the United States spends 15.7 years in school, scoring a respectable #12 spot on a ranking of 96 counties in terms of “academic longevity.” The most educated countries, according to this measure, include Norway (17.6 years), Finland (17.2 years), and Sweden (17 years). In the U.S., 31% of women have graduated high school, 21% have completed some college (without earning a degree), 8% have received their Associate’s degree, 17% earned a Bachelor’s degree, and 10% can claim a graduate or professional degree. Graduation caps off to them!

5. Business Mavens. Across the world, women are using their ingenuity and resourcefulness to establish businesses of their own. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 7.25% of all American women are involved in entrepreneurial activities with businesses less than 3.5 years old (ranked #13 of 41 countries studied), compared to about 12% of men in the United States. Countries with higher-than-U.S. levels of female entrepreneurship included Thailand (26%), Colombia (19%), China (13%), Brazil (13%), and India (8%), among others. According to the study, just two countries enjoyed a higher percentage of female than male entrepreneurs: Peru and Japan.

6. Back to the Grind. Whether as a result of financial circumstances or the desire for career fulfillment, busy moms are returning to the workplace with gusto. More than three-in-five American women with children under the age of six (61%) are part of the workforce, higher than the global average of 54% of mothers with young brood at home. This lands American women at the #8 spot on a list of 23 countries, topped by Sweden where 76% of mothers with little ones are back at work. In the Czech Republic, just 32% of mothers in this category are on the job.

7. Women In Charge. While Hillary Clinton is the third Secretary of State for the U.S. in the past 12 years, she fell short in her pursuit of the top spot. Women around the world currently serving as national chief executives during these challenging economic times include Angela Merkel (Germany), Pratibha Patil (India), Yuliya Tymoshenko (Ukraine), Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (Iceland), Mary McAleese (Ireland), Tarja Halonen (Finland), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Agentina), among others. In the 111th United States Congress, a total of 90 women hold one of the 535 seats (16.8%), in addition to eight governorships and eight lieutenant governorships according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

8. You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby … But Not Everywhere. In the United States, women have enjoyed the right to pull the ballot lever since 1920, but in other countries women have only recently gained that privilege. In 2005, Kuwait’s parliament awarded women the opportunity to vote and run for office, and in 2006, Kuwaiti women approached the election with the zeal of a first-time voter. Though the 2006 Kuwaiti Parliamentary election, the first in which women could vote, was relatively small, female voters outnumbered male voters by more than a third. In contrast, women down under have been casting their ballots since 1893 in New Zealand and 1902 in Australia. In fact, New Zealand is the only country in the world in which women simultaneously held all the highest offices (March 2005-August 2006), including head of state Queen Elizabeth II, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives Margaret Wilson and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias.

9. The Infiltration of the Internet. It seems like Americans are connected 24/7, yet the U.S. ranks 13th in the world for Internet penetration; 74% of Americans are online. Of the 271 countries tracked by Miniwatts Marketing Group in 2008, 47 had an Internet penetration level over 50% of the population, with Greenland and the Netherlands boasting a wired population of more than 90%. Residents of Norway, Iceland, and Canada also beat out the United States, with a higher percentage of the population pointing and clicking online, perhaps as a diversion from the frigid temperatures outside. In the United States 75% of women and 73% of men use the Internet (at least occasionally and to send or receive e-mails online), according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. On an average day, 57% of American women surf the World Wide Web, and these savvy ladies-online are more likely than men to use the Internet to send and receive email, get maps and directions, click for health news, and view religious information.

10. Social (Women) Networking (Men). From Facebook to Friendster to Flickr, which social network is right for you? That depends on your gender, according to a worldwide study by consumer group RapLeaf, which examined the number and expanse of relationships among men and women on social networking sites. According to the study, women spend more time on social networks building and nurturing relationships, whereas men are apt to spend their social networking time “transacting.” As a result, Web sites like LinkedIn and Flickr, where businessmen and freelance artists alike can connect and collaborate, are used more often by men than sites like Facebook and MySpace, where women more often venture to post photos or connect with old friends. The average online profiler belongs to 2-3 social networks, necessitating double or triple status updates when expressing a mood shift or relationship change!

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