Washington, Mar.8 : When it comes to political equality for women, the United States ranks "middle of the pack" compared to most other countries, according to the authors of a recent book on women and global politics.
Pamela Paxton, an associate professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University, said: "It would be groundbreaking for the United States if Hillary Clinton were elected, but it would still be following the middle-of-the road pattern."
"Overall, we're behind many countries, but there are also plenty of countries that do more poorly," she said.
Paxton and Melanie Hughes, a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, are authors of Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective.
In the book, Paxton and Hughes argue that during the past century, women have made inroads into every area of political decision making around the world. But they are still a long way from achieving equality with men in every country, and that includes the United States.
One important way to measure gender equality is to see the proportion of women in a country's legislature or parliament, according to the authors. By that measure, as of 2005 the United States ranked 61st of 128 countries, with 15.2 percent women in Congress. Rwanda leads the world with 48.8 percent women in its parliament. Several countries had no women at all in their legislatures.
"Women are still terribly underrepresented in the U.S. Congress, but there has been a marked improvement from 20 years ago when there was less than 5 percent women in Congress," Hughes said.
Another measure of gender equality is women's suffrage. Again, the United States was somewhere in the middle in terms of when it first gave women the right to vote (1920), trailing New Zealand, which was first in 1893, as well as Australia and a variety of European countries.
The role of women in politics has received extra attention this year with Hillary Clinton being the first woman to seriously contend for her party's presidential nomination.
There are conflicting signs as to whether Americans are ready to elect a woman to the White House, according to Hughes and Paxton.
Paxton and Hughes also speculate that some of the obstacles faced by Clinton may have more to do with her gender than the media, and even Clinton herself, acknowledge.
If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will join a very small number of female leaders in the world. The authors calculated that women as of March 2006 headed just four percent of the world's governments.
"It is probably safe to say this number will grow over time, but is likely to remain a small percentage of all leaders for some time," the authors said.