Boss Lady

Gender equity infographic: Which countries are closing the gap?


In Australia today the average female worker earns 15.3% less than a male worker. That’s almost 10 minutes of unpaid labor for every hour worked. But it’s not just unequal pay plaguing women across the country with gender equity problems. According to research women are more likely to be depressed, retire into poverty and be victims of domestic violence. Many of the struggles women face today could arguably be attributed to their underrepresentation in government, with women representing only 32% of parliament, despite making up over 50% of the population.

World Economic Forum (WEF) data has been used to create a map revealing the most gender equal countries in the world, and it’s not great news on the gender equity front.

The study methodology

Over 140 countries were scored in four key areas including health, education, economy and politics. The map, which aims to highlight the global state of gender inequality, shows Australia ranking disappointedly low at 46 just behind the US (45) and countries like Bulgaria (41), Jamaica (42) and Trinidad and Tobago (44) who all offer better overall equality for women.

The best countries for gender equity

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Rwanda

The worst countries for gender equity

  1. Yemen
  2. Pakistan
  3. Syria
  4. Saudi Arabia
  5. Chad

Iceland takes the top spot on the map for the most gender equity country in the world, and considering their strong history in female leadership (their fourth President, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, was the first democratically elected female president in the world!) it’s hardly surprising. But it’s not just Iceland’s past gender equity achievements that define the country as an equality trailblazer. This year they became the first country in the world to introduce legislation requiring employers to pay their male and female staff equally. From January next year all government bodies and private companies who employ more than 25 people will have to prove that they provide equal pay to men and women or face fines.

Other less than shocking gender equity results on the map go to 2nd, 3rd and 4th place which is dominated by the Scandinavian countries, namely Finland, Norway and Sweden. However, the holders of the remaining top 10 gender equity spots may come as a surprise to some.

Rwanda, where over 64% of parliamentary seats are held by women (the highest percentage in the world) takes 5th place on the map. Ireland comes in 6th and the Philippines, which scored exceptionally for it’s education and health equality takes 7th. Slovenia, New Zealand and Nicaragua take the 8th, 9th and 10th spots.

At the other end of the gender equity table, war-torn Yemen ranks as the lowest for equality. Although it should be noted that data wasn’t available for every country in the world. Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Chad are close behind as some of the least gender equity nations.

Other notable rankings include the UK which barely made it into the gender equity top 20, sitting just ahead of Mozambique which ranked 21st. Germany took 13th spot on the map, just beating Namibia at 14th.  France comes in at 17th, only slightly behind the Netherlands which sits at 16th place. Spain fell well behind at 29th, but Malta was the worst performer within the EU ranking at 108th. China joined the table in 99th place.

The future

While the global gender equity gap has narrowed for most countries since 2006, the WEF suggests that, at its current pace, it will take over 170 years to close the economic gap alone. For the countries that get there however, the rewards will be plentiful.

Various studies have suggested that improving gender equity could result in notable economic benefits, with some estimates suggesting it could add an additional US$250 billion to the United Kingdom’s GDP, US$1,750 billion to that of the United States, US$505 billion to Japan’s, and US$310 billion to the GDP of Germany[1].

So the economic case for closing the gender equity gap is clear and there is no doubt about the values-based argument. Women are after all one half of the world’s population and deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation, earning potential, and political power. It’s about time we all learned from the countries that are getting it right and make the future better for both men and women all over the world.

5 ways to improve gender equity

1. Expand childcare

For many mothers, working more is not a question of wanting, but of being able to. Often they cannot find a day nursery or kindergarten place for their offspring, or the facility closes so early that they cannot accept a full-time position. A larger number of kindergarten places would make it easier for women to return to work quickly after the birth of the child or to increase working hours as they wish.

The need for external care does not end when the child leaves kindergarten, but continues in elementary school. More all-day schools or after-school care places would also make it easier for women to extend their working hours. The expansion in Germany is progressing. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the proportion of schoolchildren attending all-day school has increased from 10 to 40 percent since 2002. However, there are major regional differences and the need is significantly greater. The grand coalition wants to improve the situation quickly: According to the coalition agreement, parents should have a legal right to all-day care at elementary school age by 2025.

2. Improve the compatibility of family and work

In some countries, employees have a legal right to reduce their working hours. They have the right to return to a full-time position until the end of the statutory parental leave, but not otherwise. The OECD advocates a more comprehensive right of return, in particular to improve the professional and financial situation of women. After all, it is mostly they who reduce their working hours because of looking after family members. Finally, unfortunately, part-time is often a career killer.

3. Create better career and income opportunities for women

It is a sobering result: on average, full-time employees earn almost 13 percent less per hour than men in the OECD. Part of the pay gap can be explained by the fact that they are more likely to work in lower-skilled jobs or in industries that tend to pay less. If you take these effects out of the equation, there is still a difference. The OECD recommends transparency as an important step towards more fair wages.

What is clear, however, is that the gender equity pay gap would continue to narrow if women were more engaged in management positions. So far, however, they have been underrepresented in top positions. According to the OECD, companies should, for example, be obliged to set voluntary target figures for the filling of management positions with women and to publish them.

4. Break down gender stereotypes when choosing a career

A boy becomes a car mechanic, a girl a nurse – as clichéd the example as it is, it is so close to reality. To this day, gender-related differences can be identified in career choices – and these are partly responsible for the still existing gender equity pay gap. Women are more likely to choose jobs in education, the social or health sector and in trade. These tend to be paid less. Men, on the other hand, are overrepresented in technical professions, which offer higher earning opportunities.

Changing this gender equity gap is primarily the task of schools. After all, young people lay the foundations for their professional careers there, be it because they select or deselect certain subjects, decide for or against a high school diploma or recommend their grades for certain professions – or not. Therefore, according to the OECD, teachers should help students to reduce their fear of contact with subjects such as mathematics or physics, give them more self-confidence and also provide them with targeted support. It goes without saying that parents are also challenged to arouse their daughters’ interest in numbers and technology and to show them career opportunities beyond traditional “women’s professions”.

5. Promote financial education and retirement provision

Nowadays, anyone who wants to be adequately protected in old age needs good financial knowledge. After all, old-age insurance is also based on private provision. To do this, savers have to deal with the opportunities and risks of the capital market, understand how investment products work and know how much they should set aside for their retirement.

Women find these questions more difficult than men. Several studies suggest this. Accordingly, they show less interest in the financial market and reveal greater knowledge gaps. They are more hesitant and cautious and have less confidence in their decisions. The result: many postpone their old-age provision or leave it entirely – and that is one of the reasons why they have fewer assets than men.

That is why the OECD recommends improving women’s financial literacy. Because knowledge gaps not only have a negative effect on private pension provision, they also affect career opportunities – when it comes to starting your own company, for example. Ideally, however, the educational offers are aimed at both genders, because there is still a lot that can be improved with boys.


About Chris Rowson'

Chris Rowson is the founder of eCard Shack , which provides businesses all over the world with high quality corporate eCards for Christmas, New Year and other Holidays.

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