When you hear the term “women’s empowerment”, what springs to mind? It is a phrase that seems both powerful and, at once, rather nebulous. While there is no common, unifying definition of ‘women’s empowerment’, the concept is best understood by focusing differences of opportunity, access, and privilege between men and women. According to the World Bank, empowerment is “the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.” According to HuffPo columnist Jin In, empowerment encompasses economic empowerment, political participation, and girls’ education. In all almost every instance, you will find that women in any given society, in any given country, have it worse off than men – often in unimaginably stark and disturbing ways. In the United States, gender inequality ranges from subtle to drastic, but looking at the global picture will also help us understand where we stand, and our role in women’s empowerment at home and internationally. International humanitarian aid agency CARE devotes tremendous effort and resources to addressing global women’s empowerment through a number of initiatives. They also offer startling statistics which highlight the incredible inequality and injustices faced by women around the world:1 in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime1 in 9 girls in developing countries is forced into marriage before her 15th birthdayTwo-thirds of the world’s 774 illiterate adults are women Created in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly, UN Women is an organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women on a global scale, through which it champions and fights for the basic human right of equality. UN Women works to accomplish this through five main objectives:Ending violence against all womenIncreasing women’s leadership and participationEnhancing women’s economic empowermentEngaging women in all aspects of peace and security processesMaking gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting Incredible organizations like CARE and UN Women are enacting transformational change through their work. But how does America fare in the global gender landscape? And what are we doing to help our women and girls, as well as those around the world facing serious oppression? The answer is – a lot. USAID, America’s chief mission organization for international development and delivering foreign aid, also devotes substantial resources to programs investing in women’s empowerment and gender equality. USAID operates in more than 80 countries – its largest investment to date has focused on At home, the picture of gender is predictable in some areas, and surprising in others. American women face barriers in the workplace due to a persisting wage gap, numerous glass ceilings and a bewildering lack of paid maternity leave. Yet talented girl students are surpassing their male counterparts in language performance and rapidly catching up to them in the areas of math and science, according to a study by Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP). Women outnumber men on U.S. college campuses, composing more than 56% of students on university campuses in in 2017. These are promising trends, but this isn’t enough. And this year was certainly not one to rest on our laurels. The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2017 revealed that for the first time since tracking the issue a decade ago, “equality is in retreat”. Based on metrics covering economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, the WEF calculates that the gender gap will take a century to close, a drastic increase from last year’s estimate of 83 years. Furthermore, the report reveals that the United States is also far from the world leader in gender equality, coming in at a depressing 49th out of 144 countries. This is well behind the United Kingdom (15th) and Canada (16th). Iceland ranked first. Is this really the position we want to find ourselves in come 2018, or 2020? America needs to do more to realize complete gender equality. Women’s empowerment is not a policy issue; it is an imperative. When we strive to empower our women and girls, we empower ourselves as a nation, and set an example for the rest of the world.