The Best and Worst Places To Be a Woman

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Think men and women have equal opportunities? Think again.

There is a gender gap virtually everywhere in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, which looks at the relative gaps between men and women when it comes to health, education, economics and politics.

And despite significant gains, women do not have the same opportunities as men in any of the 136 countries ranked.

Overall, the gender gap has narrowed slightly, especially when it comes to health and education. But the gap remains stubborn in terms of economic participation and political empowerment throughout the world. Of all the countries ranked, which include more than 90 percent of the world’s population, none are equal on the last two measures.


The United States comes in at 23, behind both the United Kingdom and Germany. Cuba ranks 15. A host of Latin American nations, including Costa Rica, Argentina, Colombia and Panama fall in the 30s. Russia ranks 61, followed by Mexico at 68 and China at 69.

The report measures gaps within countries and not the levels of resources available. That’s part of the reason a country like Cuba ranks above the United States. American women have more resources in general, but there is a larger gap between what men and women in the United States have access to than there is between men and women in Cuba.

“Countries and companies can be competitive only if they develop, attract and retain the best talent, both male and female,” Klaus Schwab, executive director of the World Economic Forum writes in the preface.” While governments have an important role to play in creating the right policy framework for improving women’s access and opportunities, it is also the imperative of companies to create workplaces where the best talent can flourish. Civil society, educators and media also have an important role to play in both empowering women and engaging men in the process.”

Here are the 10 countries with the smallest gender gaps:

Nordic countries perform very well when it comes to limiting the gender gap. Women actually make up the majority of the high-skilled workforce in these countries, and the report notes that parents in Nordic countries successfully combine work and family, meaning there is a more equitable distribution of work both in and out of the home. Healthcare is generally good, as is political participation.

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Philippines
  6. Ireland
  7. New Zealand
  8. Denmark
  9. Switzerland
  10. Nicaragua

Here are the 10 countries with the largest gender gaps:

There are still major discrepancies in the Middle East and North Africa when it comes to access to education and healthcare. There has been some positive movement, though. Saudi Arabia introduced a quota for women in parliament, and Mauritania has closed its health gap.

  1. Yemen
  2. Pakistan
  3. Chad
  4. Syria
  5. Mauritania
  6. Cote d’Ivoire
  7. Iran
  8. Morocco
  9. Mali
  10. Saudi Arabia

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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