With the rise of Hillary Clinton as the first woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major party, we've been talking about gender equality a lot this week. One more glass ceiling has been broken. But surprisingly, when it comes to Facebook chatter, gender equality hasn't gotten as much attention as other issues in the last few months.
We looked at Facebook data that measures what people are talking about in the context of the election and found it striking how little the issue of gender equality comes up. Religion and the economy are the most popular topics of conversation in discussions about the election on the social network, while gender equality comes up less than 2% of the time, less popular than Iran but more popular than Cuba.
Here's a breakdown that shows how much users discussed each of the 32 major issues tracked by Facebook in the context of the upcoming election in recent months. Scroll down… keep scrolling…and you'll see that gender equality lingers towards the bottom of the list. It comes in 25th place in terms of the share of conversation it earns.
Data source: Data from Facebook tracking 32 major policy issues discussed in the context of the 2016 presidential elections among people ages 18+ who live in the United States. State-by-state comparison of conversation share by topic for the period February to May 2016.
It's not that Americans are shy about tackling difficult subjects on Facebook. Across the country Americans are talking more about racial issues than just about any other issue. In fact, race was the third most discussed issue nationally, after the economy and religion. Likewise, abortion, a historically contentious topic, and one that engages women, also gets more attention on Facebook than gender equality.
The average share of conversation for gender equality was 1.5% as compared to 11% for racial issues, 3.8% for LGBT issues and 3.6% for abortion. Even taxes, a notoriously unlikeable issue, carries more freight on Facebook than gender equality, generating 7.1% of the conversation on average nationally.
The gap is all that much more interesting when you consider that women are more likely to be Facebook users than men. Among adults online 77% of women are Facebook users as compared to 66% of men according to a study by the Pew Research Center on the demographics of social media platforms. (Twitter, which has a smaller audience, skews the other way, 24% of men use Twitter compared to 21% of women.)
There are some spots around the country where gender equality gets its fair share of the conversation. Places like Saguache County, CO (7.2%), Jefferson County NE (7.1%) and Jefferson County (6.5%). However, most counties discuss the issue less than the national average, with a median share of 1.0% at the county level. Here's a county-by-county look at the share of conversation about gender equality as compared to the national average :
Data source: County-by-county comparison of conversation share about gender equality on Facebook as compared to the national average for the topic for the period February to May 2016.
Will gender equality get more attention if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency? The topic of Facebook conversation about gender equality is broader than Clinton's candidacy and does not include conversation about Clinton's presumptive nomination. Nor do we have historic data to make a comparison. However, the data we do have suggests that racial issues are now commonly discussed on Facebook. Although, President Obama has been criticized for not doing more to address racial inequality, at least we're talking about the issue. And that's something. If Clinton wins the White House, it's possible that having a woman in office could have a similar effect and help give gender equality the mindshare it deserves. The data we have was collected prior to Tuesday's primary results, but it wouldn't come as a surprise if the issue gets a little bump now that she has become the presumptive nominee.
In the meantime, in an effort to jump start discussion about this important issue, here are some conversation starters.
- In 2010, American women on average earned 81 percent of what their male counterparts earned according to the International Labor Organization of the U.N., up from 62 percent in 1979.
- At the same time, women's participation in the labor force has declined from 60 percent in 2000, to 46.7 percent in 2010.
- During the recession of 2007-2010, men lost more jobs than women but women had a harder time re-entering the workforce. At the start of the recession 1 in 10 women worked part-time because they could not find full-time work, following the recession that number grew to 1 in 5 women.
- Women surpass men on education attainment. Among those employed aged 25 and over 37.1 percent of women hold at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 34.9 percent of men.
- Over 25 million Americans aged 60+ live on incomes at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. Women are particularly affected. Older women typically receive about $4,000 less annually in Social Security than older men. Older women of color fare even worse.
Ok Facebook, discuss amongst yourselves.
Kate Stohr is a data journalist and community builder based in San Francisco, CA.