10 Best and Worst Countries for Women According to Global Gender Gap Report 2013

The World Economic Forum recently released its 2013 Gender Gap Report. The smaller the gender gap, the better off the economy, according to the report. Unfortunately, in the entire world, no country has closed the gender gap. But Nordic countries, with the exception of Denmark (c’mon Danes, get your act together), have served as standard-setters, closing more than 80 percent of their gender gaps. The report culls together information about income, maternal mortality, education, political involvement, and Internet access to come up with its rankings for 136 countries. The United States does not even rank in the top 10 — it’s way down at number 23, a notch lower than its 2012 ranking. Click on to find out the 10 best and worst countries for women.


Sure, it’s cold, but Iceland’s gender inequality is far from frozen in the past. For the fifth year in a row, Iceland ranks as the country with the narrowest gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap 2013 report. The high-income nation permits abortion and has a very low maternal mortality rate. About 96 percent of its women are connected to the Internet. The country also picks up the tab for 26 weeks of maternity leave. Nice, job Iceland.

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Finland has been hustlin’ hard for women since 1906, when it became the first country in Europe to grant women the right to vote. It was also the first country in the world where women could run for office. Tarja Halonen, pictured second from left, served as Finland’s president from 2000-2012. According to the WEF’s report, female Finns outpace men in technical and professional job positions, and they have a higher enrollment in tertiary education.

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Taking the bronze medal for gender equality is Norway. The country has the highest percent of female ministerial positions in government — 52 percent are women. The country’s women play it safe in the sack, with 88 percent of married Norwegians using contraception. Enrollment in tertiary education far outpaces that of men. And moms-to-be, listen up: Norway grants a whopping 52 weeks (!) of maternity leave.

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The land of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also has some badass gender equality laws. According to the country’s website, gender equality is a “cornerstone” of Swedish life, and “an extensive welfare system makes it easier for both sexes to balance work and family life.” (Work-life balance? What’s that?) This commitment has even extended to the debate over gender neutrality in the Swedish language. About half of Sweden’s government ministers are women, including Sweden’s Minister for European Union Affairs Birgitta Ohlsson, who was pregnant when she was elected.


The Asia-Pacific country is probably the only surprise in the top five. Moving up from number 8 last year, the Philippines have made some gains in gender equality. It’s the only country in its region that has fully closed the gender gap in both education and health, according to the report. By law, there must be an equal distribution of men and women in its government. The country’s female workers are highly skilled in technical and professional fields, according to the report.


Rounding out the bottom five, Mauritania has a striking gender gap. About 44 percent of the Western African nation’s women are unemployed. “Mauritania shows the biggest losses in the region, falling by thirteen positions due a decrease in female labour force participation. Despite this fall, Mauritania is one of the two countries from the region that has fully closed its health and survival gender gap,” according to the report.


With all that Syria’s women and children have been through recently — namely, the civil war that has displaced millions of them into dangerous settlements in neighboring countries — no one should be surprised that the country in at the bottom of the list. Wage equality is nil and the maternal mortality rate is very high in the tumultuous Middle Eastern nation.

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Chad remains the lowest-ranking Sub-Saharan country in the report. Educational attainment is abysmal, maternal mortality affects nearly 1,100 of 100,000 births, and almost 4 percent of women have HIV. Around half of Chad’s women are married by the time they are 19 years old.

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Pakistan’s ranking in the WEF has steadily declined since 2006. The country scores very low in terms of women’s participation in the work force. And government positions are rarely seen in managerial positions. The country’s government is only made up of about 10 percent women. Even though Benazir Bhutto served as prime minister in the ’90s, she of course was ultimately assassinated.

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Life is worst for women in Yemen, according to the WEF’s report. It scores lowest in secondary enrollment for women and has a high fertility rate for girls between the ages of 15-19 (69 births per 1,000 girls). There are no women in Parliament. “However, Yemen has experienced an absolute increase in its overall gender gap score and is the seventh top climber of the 110 countries that have been included in the Report since 2006,” the report states. So at least there’s hope.

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