America is ranked 49th and Desi Lydic is not happy about it!


Every year, the World Economic Forum updates its Global Gender Gap Report based upon a methodology that relies on the latest statistical sources from around the world. In 2017, America ranked 49th out of 149 countries, further proving what we have already known to be true—although the U.S. is considered to be 'the best country in the world' it is still far behind when it comes to gender equality.

After learning how low the U.S. ranked, The Daily Show's correspondent, Desi Lydic, flew out to three countries with a higher ranking than the U.S., to "copy their homework" and find out what has made them so successful. Lydic visited Iceland, Namibia, and Spain which have made strides in closing the wage gap by empowering women to be at the forefront of political and economic legislation.

"Iceland is not perfect when it comes to gender equality. We still have work to do." - Halla Tomasdottir, CEO and former presidential candidate

Lydic's first stop was Iceland, the country that has ranked number 1 in the Global Gender Gap Report for the 9th year in a row. In aneffort to learn more about what has kept Iceland as the most progressive country when it comes to closing the wage gap, Lydic sat down with CEO and former presidential candidate, Halla Tomasdottir.

According to Tomasdottir, the 1975 Icelandic women's strike was the most crucial event that helped transcend Iceland "into the first country to democratically elect a woman as president." Women in power became the norm and Iceland has continued working towards closing the wage gap by giving women equal opportunities to have the same jobs and receive the same pay as men, while also normalizing men being active in care taking roles.

Tomasdottir stated that "motherhood increases the potential for a wage gap." This means that in the time spent at home taking care of their baby, women were earning 18% less money than men. In order to solve this problem, Iceland implemented a parental leave policy where men and women were given a total of nine months as well as 80% of the pay they were earning before going on parental leave.

Iceland's policies have also been seeping into various aspects of the culture, empowering women to take up space in every industry. Lydic interviewed the top female rap group, Daughters of Reykjavik. They confessed that they were confident in taking the space they needed to express themselves as artists and have since changed the way male rappers perceive women.

"It's about occupying the space and taking charge of that space you are given" -Rosa Namises, Former Member of Parliment

Lydic's next stop was Namibia, ranked 13th in the Gender Gap Report—and for good reasons. Majority of Namibia's government has been run by women from MP's to Prime Minister. Back in 1990 when Namibia was fighting to break free from South Africa, women were active participants in the war, standing at the front lines of the military alongside their male counterparts. When the war was over, women continued to move in power by introducing a policy called the Zebra System that stated for every man put first, a woman must be next.

Namibia has been vastly beating the U.S. in women representation and the results have been noticeable within their society. Hon. Margaret Mensah-Williams, Chairperson of the Namibian National Council, stated that women have directed the largest chunk of the country's budget towards health and education and have passed a number of laws such as the Married Persons Act, Rape Act and Domestic Violence Act. In addition, Namibia's constitution also has equal rights protections for women which the U.S. has yet to accomplish—leaving us one state short of ratification.

Lydic met up with the founders of a feminist Namibian podcast, "Heard Not Seen." They began their podcast after realizing that there were not enough feminist podcasts that catered to their part of the world. They expressed that a part of feminism is acknowledging what women need in order to be equal which will not be the same for women everywhere in the world. They strive to approach various conversations from an intersectional framework that take into consideration race, culture, and class.

"Women spoke out and the government listened" -Desi Lydic

On her final stop, Lydic visited Spain which ranked number 24 on the Gender Gap Report. Lydic chose Spain as it is the country that invented the term "machismo," yet managed to rank higher than the U.S... Lydic stated that, "In 2018, Spain launched its own "Me Too" movement where 5 million women went on strike against Spain's laws on reproductive rights and sexual violence."

Pilar Alvarez, journalist and gender correspondent, explained that after the strike, there was a new government in which 11 of the 17 people in it were women. They immediately got to work by passing a "Yes Means Yes" law and even created an entire department in their local government dedicated to gender equality.

Celia Mayer, Madrid city council member, stated that in order for them to achieve gender equality they had to focus on changing the culture of power and convince men to change their attitudes. Spain has been focusing on creating spaces of equality that serve to support female empowerment by giving them the necessary tools to deal with inequality. They have also created male workshops that help men work on toxic masculinity.

David Martin, psychologist and teacher, leads some of the male workshops and helps men to free themselves from stereotypes while teaching them to be receptive to giving up space for women to occupy.

After learning of the history and movements that have helped these countries become successful in achieving gender equality, Lydic expressed hope that America can one day follow in their footsteps. However, in 2018, the U.S. dropped to number 51 in the new gender ranking. It seems that there is still a lot of work left to be done, but change can be achieved by empowering women to take up space and go after higher positions. It is equally important that both men and women confront toxic masculinity and demand equal representation on both political and economic levels.


Shivani Mangar