The best countries for women around the world
To measure the world's progress toward gender equality, the World Economic Forum (WEF) created the Global Gender Gap Index a decade ago.
The most recent report, published in November 2017, analyzes four main dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political representation. Looking at 144 countries, the WEF concludes that an average global gender gap of 32% remains, compared to 31.7% in 2016. Globally, the widest gaps between women and men exist in economic opportunity and political representation. Since 2016, 82 countries have improved their overall gender gap score.
One caveat with the data: When a country ranks very highly in one or two categories, it shoots to the top of the overall ranking. For example, Ireland - which makes the top 10 - ranked #1 in educational attainment, but #96 for health and survival.
In addition, as the BBC notes, the index measures women's position compared to men in their country, not to women in other places.
The 10 countries with the narrowest gender gaps are below. (The United States does not make the cut.)
10. The Philippines — In 2017, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order that gives women free access to reproductive health information and services.
9. New Zealand — Following the 2014 election, 31% of New Zealand's parliament was female, compared to 9% in 1981.
8. Ireland — Irish women have a high life expectancy, and women are more likely than men to achieve a higher-education degree.
7. Slovenia — In this country, the maternal mortality rate is 9 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is low considering the global average of 216 deaths.
6. Nicaragua — Women make up more than 40% of lawmakers, senior officials, and managers in this country.
5. Sweden — Sweden’s government is 43.6% women, ranking sixth in the world.
4. Rwanda — In this country, women make up 63.8% of its parliament.
3. Finland — In 2017, the Gender Neutral Marriage Act took effect, allowing same-sex couples to adopt children and helping dismantle traditional gender roles.
2. Norway — In the 2013 national election, women occupied 39.6% of parliament seats. In local government, women have gained about one-third of the seats.
1. Iceland — For the past six years, Iceland has topped the WEF’s gender gap index. Today, every parent receives three months of paid leave. And in 2018, Iceland became the world's first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women for the same job.
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