For the ninth straight year, the World Economic Forum has published its Global Gender Gap Report, an analysis of the relative parity of women and men in 142 countries on four important dimensions: health and survival, education, economic empowerment and political participation.
As in previous years, countries in the Nordic region top the list as having the highest degree of gender equality, even though there’s room for improvement in all countries. Here’s the list of the top ten countries this year, along with their scores (which theoretically can range from 0 for complete inequality to 1 for complete equality):
1. Iceland (0.86)
2. Finland (0.85)
3. Norway (0.84)
4. Sweden (0.82)
5. Denmark (0.80)
6. Nicaragua (0.79)
7. Rwanda (0.79)
8. Ireland (0.79)
9. Philippines (0.78)
10. Belgium (0.78)
At the bottom of the list, with the least amount of gender equality, are:
142. Yemen (.51)
141. Pakistan (.55)
140. Chad (.58)
139. Syria (.58)
138. Mail (.58)
137. Iran (.58)
136. Cote d’Ivoire (.59)
135. Lebanon (.59)
134. Jordan (.60)
133. Morocco (.60)
What’s most interesting, however, is the fact that 111 countries have been tracked for all nine years, so there’s now a growing body of knowledge with respect to areas of improvement and decline. Some of the most noteworthy trends include:
- Among the four pillars of the GGG, the gender gap is narrowest in the area of health and survival, with a 0.96 rating globally. While 35 countries have closed this gap entirely, this is the only subindex in which gender parity has declined over the nine years of analysis. At the other end of the gender gap spectrum, the ratio of the political empowerment of women compared to that of men remains at just 0.21 among the 111 nations tracked over the past nine years. This pillar, however, has seen the most improvement since 2006.
- Regionally, Latin America has seen the largest absolute reduction in their overall gender gap, with 4.2% of their gap narrowed since 2006. At the other end of the spectrum, the Asia-Pacific region is the only region in which the gender gap has widened, by 3.2%.
- Between 2006 and 2014, 105 of 111 countries have made progress overall, while just six countries have regressed relative to their starting point. The countries that have seen the largest reductions in their gender gaps, relative to where they were ranked in 2006, are: Nicaragua, Nepal, France, Ecuador, and Saudi Arabia.
The six countries that have seen a worsening of their gender gaps in the areas of health, education, economic participation and political empowerment since 2006 are: Croatia, Jordan, Macedonia, Mali, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.
With nearly a decade’s worth of data made public through these reports, what are the lessons we can learn? First and foremost, while there is indeed a vast difference in gender equality between #1 Iceland and #142 Yemen, there is room for improvement in every economy – especially with respect to political inclusion and economic empowerment. While health and education have seen tremendous gains over the past decade, women’s voices are frequently absent from political and economic decision-making – to the detriment of those county’s economic health and social stability.
Secondly, parity does not necessarily equal empowerment. Closing gender gaps, while an important indicator of overall well-being, should not lead us to think that our womenabling work is done. Improving the overall level of health, education, political inclusion and economic empowerment for both women and men is important as well.
Finally, having nearly a decade’s worth of data increases our level of insight and analysis and shows us that, while there has been improvement in nearly every country since 2006, there has been some decline – both within some individual countries and regionally in the Asia-Pacific region. Having information such as this on a consistent and detailed basis can inform policymaking and fuel advocacy. OK, womenablers, on your mark, set, go!
Visit http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2014 to learn more, see where your country ranks, and to download the complete report. And here’s a brief 2-minute video explaining the impetus behind the GGG initiative.