Gender Equality: Celebrating a Slow Progress

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The report’s Gender Gap Index ranks countries according to their gender gaps, and their scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the inequality between women and men that has been closed. Information about gender imbalances to the advantage of women is explicitly prevented from affecting the score.

The Global Gender Gap Report, introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006, provides a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities around the world. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparison across regions and income groups and over time.

The three highest ranking countries have closed over 84% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranking country has closed only a little over 50% of its gender gap. It “assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities,” the Report says.

“By providing a comprehensible framework for assessing and comparing global gender gaps and by revealing those countries that are role models in dividing these resources equitably between women and men, the Report serves as a catalyst for greater awareness as well as greater exchange between policymakers.”

The report examines four critical areas of inequality between men and women in 130 economies around the globe, over 93% of the world’s population:

  • Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
  • Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
  • Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
  • Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

Thirteen out of the 14 variables used to create the index are from publicly available “hard data” indicators from international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization.

canada scores poor 1Gender gaps around the world have shrunk slightly, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Canada, however, definitely has room to improve. It currently sits at 20th place out of 136 countries, having only moved up one spot since the year before.

The Gender Gap Index analyzes countries to see whether resources are equally divided between both genders. It measures the gap between women and men in four categories: health, education, economics and politics. Below are the top 10 most progressive countries in 2013.

Countries with the smallest gender gaps

10. Nicaragua – Index score: 0.7715*

gender 10Nicaragua dropped one place from last year, but the country remains the only Latin American and Caribbean country on this top 10 list. The country ranked low for economic participation and opportunity and health and survival of women, but it ranked fifth for women’s opportunities in politics. In parliament, there is a ratio of 0.67 females to males, and there is a 0.86 female-to-male ratio in ministerial positions.

Nicaragua is one of the few lower-middle income countries on this list, which means that residents make between $1,036 and $4,085 a year. In 2012, the gross national income per captia was $1,650, according to the World Bank.

* Index scores are between 0 and 1. The closer the country’s gap index is to one, the closer the country has come to reaching equality. Scores are determined by looking at various categories, each of which contains subindex indicators.
9. Switzerland – Index score: 0.7736

GENDER SWITZERLANDSwitzerland made this list due to a high amount of female participation in politics (it ranked 16th in the world), along with economic opportunities and participation rates for female workers (it came in 23rd place). In fact, there is no gender gap in categories such as estimated earned income, literacy rate, and enrolment in primary and tertiary education. Swiss females even have a higher life expectancy – on average, women live until age 76, while males live until 73.

Since 2007, when it placed 40 out of 128 nations, Switzerland has greatly improved its ranking. However, Switzerland still has less females serving on company boards than other EU countries, according to a Credit Suisse report analyzing gender diversity and corporate performance. (The European Commission recently adopted a proposal for a directive seeking to address this inequality in representation for EU-listed companies). VIDEO
8. Denmark – Index score: 0.7779

GENDER DENMARKDenmark’s place on this list can largely be attributed to its educational system. The country’s lack of an educational gender gap placed it in the No. 1 spot for this category — in some cases, females have higher enrolment numbers than males at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Denmark dropped one spot from last year, though the Nordic country saw improvements in the political empowerment category. Danish women were given the right to vote in 1915, which is considered to be an early start, according to the World Economic Forum. During the 1970s, political parties in the country introduced voluntary gender quotas, which increased female participation, but they were later abandoned.

The Nordic country offers a generous maternity leave policy where mothers receive 52 paid weeks off with 100 per cent salary (up to a certain amount). In 2008, legislation was passed in Denmark that requires companies to consider diversity when hiring for corporate boards.
7. New Zealand – Index score: 0.7799

gender new zealandNew Zealand is one of two Asia and Pacific region countries that ranked high in the Gender Gap Index. New Zealand has consistently placed within the top 10 for gender equality over the past eight years. However, a decrease in wage equality, and gains by women in the Philippines, led to New Zealand dropping one spot from last year.

The WEF study found no gender gap in education in New Zealand — female enrollment was slightly higher than males in both secondary and tertiary education. The study also found a high level of gender equality among professional and technical workers and in the ratio of girls to boys during birth.

New Zealand offers new mothers 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and an additional 38 weeks of leave. Within the last 50 years, a female has been the prime minister for 11 of those years (putting it at ninth place in this category). The country is working to improve gender equality on corporate boards by requiring listed companies to disclose their gender breakdown of board members and executive members.
6. Ireland – Index score: 0.7823

GENDER IRELANDIreland’s sixth-place ranking is due to female involvement in politics in the country. There has been a female Irish leader for 21 of the last 50 years. However, Ireland has fallen one spot on this list since last year due to a drop in wage equality. The nation has achieved gender equality in professional and technical jobs, its literacy rate and enrolment in secondary and tertiary education. Ireland has placed within the top 10 countries with the smallest gender gap for the last eight years.

New Irish mothers get 26 weeks of paid maternity leave with full wages in some public and private sectors, along with 16 weeks of unpaid leave. The country currently doesn’t have any national policy to improve gender equality on corporate boards, but Irish directors think the country’s companies lack gender diversity, according to a survey conducted by Harty International, an executive search firm. Meanwhile, there have been moves to improve female participation in politics by introducing legislation for a 30 per cent female quota of a party’s candidates in the next election.
5. Philippines – Index score: 0.7832

gender philippinesThe Philippines is the only Asian country to make this top 10 list. This Southeast Asian nation placed eighth last year, but it increased its ranking due to improved wage equality for similar work and more female workers in professional and technical occupations. It’s the only country in Asia that doesn’t have a gender gap when it comes to education and health for males and females, but its score on female labour participation has lowered the country’s ranking.

The country’s maternity leave benefits only provide eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave. A female has led the country for 16 years out of the last 50.
4. Sweden – Index score: 0.8129

gender swedenSweden has consistently ranked within the top five on this list, but it dropped from the number one spot eight years ago.

Swedish women make 93 per cent of what their male counterparts make, but the country boasts many females in politics. Sweden gave women the right to vote in 1919, which is considered early compared to other countries. It was also one of the countries to introduce voluntary gender quotas during the 1970s, which contributes to its high 44.7 per cent female participation rate in politics. The country is also recognized for its high ratio of women holding ministerial positions (52 per cent) and the number of females who held the top position in the nation within the last 50 years.

Sweden has achieved gender equality in its literacy rate and enrolment in secondary and tertiary education and it has a 0.99 ratio of females to males enrolled in primary education.
3. Norway – Index score: 0.8417

gender norwayNorway is known for tackling gender inequality — it introduced historic quota legislation back in 2003. Company boards are required by law to be made up of 40 per cent women at listed companies with more than 10 employees. Unfortunately, the policy may not be helping women land executive positions, according to a recent Bloomberg article.

Women were given the right to vote in Norway in 1913, which is quite early compared to other nations. As well, likely as result of voluntary gender quotas in political parties, Norwegian women hold 53 per cent of ministerial positions, netting the country the top spot in this category. It also ranks high for a small gender gap in estimated incomes between men and women.

This Nordic nation is among the countries with the best maternity leaves. It offers a 36 to 46 week leave with from 80 to 100 per cent of wages covered.
2. Finland – Index score: 0.8421

gender finlandFinland has almost closed the gender gap between men and women. The Nordic nation has held the second or third spot in the gender gap index for the last eight years. The survey found no gender gap when it comes to earning an education, health or survival. While the nation places second for women in politics, Finland introduced voting for women back in 1906, which likely contributed to 50 per cent of women landing ministerial government positions.

In order to move up this list, Finland needs to improve the economic opportunities available to women (it ranks 19 in this category).

The nation lets new mothers take 105 working days as maternity leave, during which they’re paid about 70 per cent of their wages. Women have a life expectancy of 75 years, while men live on average to age 70.

1. Iceland – Index score: 0.8731

gender icelandIceland is a role model for other nations looking to improve their gender gaps. It has boasted the world’s smallest gender gap for five years in a row thanks to gender equality in politics and receiving an education. Women also achieved gender equality in professional and technical occupations. Women hold half of the country’s ministerial positions, while within the last 50 years, a female was leader of the government for 20 of those years.

Iceland offers its mothers two weeks of mandatory maternity leave, along with 11 more weeks at 80 per cent of their wages. Women are expected to outlive men with a life expectancy of 75 years compared to 73 years for men. Iceland is following in Norway’s footsteps and implementing a gender quota for corporate boards.

canadaWhat is Canada doing about gender inequality?


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