Thousands of people are gathered right now in Vancouver, Canada for the world's largest conference on gender equality and the health and wellbeing of girls and women.
It's called Women Deliver 2019 and organizers say if nations want to achieve gender equality they're going to need to listen to the voices of the 8,000 people who are at the conference.
Watch Heather recap Women Deliver 2019 here:
Actually, the experts speaking here say we're going to need the voices of everyone who isn't in attendance too, because right now, no country in the world is on track to eliminate gender inequality by 2030, one of the
The need for progress is reflected everywhere from global maternal health statistics (830 women still die every day from causes related to pregnancy) to the bank accounts of the mothers who are paid less for their work before returning home to work that second, unpaid shift.
This tracks with Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey, which found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports them (that's nearly a 10% increase over last year's survey). Simply put, the situation is getting worse, in America and around the world.
According to Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver, "we are in a time in the world when there is pushback against women's right across the globe," but a massive body of data and research indicates that when nations invest in girls and women there is a ripple effect and everybody wins.
The head of state of the conference's host country, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agrees. "Progress can backslide. We're seeing it happen. Gender equality is under attack," he said as he took the stage at Women Deliver amid criticism of Canada's treatment of indigenous women and girls, something a national inquiry found amounts to genocide.
Right now, Denmark is the closest, with a score of 89.3, which puts its ranking at good, but not excellent. The host country for Women Deliver 2019, Canada, comes in 8th with a score of 85.8, and the United States is in 28th place, with a score of 77.6.
The next steps
Right now, America's got stressed moms, a low birth rate, a high infant mortality rate, and the United States is a dangerous place to give birth, especially for black and First Nations women. America has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world and black and Native American and Native Alaskan women are three to four times more likely to die a pregnancy-related death, the CDC reports. It's clear that countries like Canada and America will not make that 2030 gender equality target if we don't address racism, because it's literally killing women.
Gender equality in America
We also have to address the ways in which gender inequality hurts the American family and robs fathers of the right to parent their children.
Here's the thing: Right now the United States has the most educated generation of women, ever at its disposal. Women are outpacing men in achieving college degrees, but many American women who are more educated than their husbands still earn less, and women do more unpaid work at home than men do.
Women's talents and skills are going untapped, and at the same time fathers in America often feel trapped, unable to fully participate in parenting they way they want to and the way their children need them to due to work obligations. These fathers want to be doing more of the childcare, but feel like they can't because of gender inequality.
Arguments against gender equality are often positioned as arguments for family values, but it seems to us that a world in which two parents are not equal is not good for families.
Gender inequality can breed resentment in heterosexual marriages. Some fathers feel resentment because they get little or no parental leave after becoming dads, and mothers can grow resentful if they are shouldering all the household responsibilities and sacrificing their careers.
Gender equality should be seen as a family value, not the antithesis. Gender equality will make our families stronger, not weaker.
It's time to get loud
The theme of the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver is power. We have the power to change this. There are 8,000 voices in Vancouver right now, but there are millions more that can be just as loud. We may not hit that 2030 goal, but we can try.