According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Gender Gap Index, a measure of gender equality that takes into account women’s access to resources and political empowerment, the United States ranks 51st out of the 149 countries evaluated.
Gender equality may not seem like an environmental issue, but it is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. And Project Drawdown, a research organization focused on climate solutions, ranks women’s access to education and healthcare in the top 10 levers to curbing climate change. That’s because women are especially vulnerable to climate change, and they have an important role in determining the health and size of families. But in every single country evaluated by the WEF, they don’t have the same access to resources as men.
For example, in the United States, women earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable jobs. And this is actually better than most counties: WEF found that on average, women only earn 63 cents to the man’s dollar.
Each year, the WEF evaluates gender parity based on access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities and political involvement, and provides rankings based on each of these indicators. The organization also provides overall rankings that combine the four indicators.
Globally, the overall Gender Gap Index is 0.68, which means that women have 32% less access to the same resources and opportunities as men across the four indicators.
How Do Countries Rank?
The map below shows the Gender Gap Index for each country. The United States ranks 51st in gender parity, with a Gender Gap Index of 0.71. The country ranks behind its neighbors, Canada (16), Cuba (23) and Mexico (50).
Scandinavian countries lead the way in gender parity. Iceland is the most gender-equal country, according to WEF’s 2018 numbers, followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland. As well as the best overall gender parity score, Iceland has the highest rank for equal political empowerment. In 2018, women held 38% of seats in the country’s national parliament, according to data from the World Bank. In 2017, women made up 48% of those seats.
Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Chad are in the bottom five spots. In last place, Yemen has the highest gender gap, and there is a 70% gap in economic participation. There are no women in Yemen’s parliament.
The chart below shows the top 20 countries for overall Index score.
Which Countries Have Made the Most Progress in Reducing Gender Disparities?
The WEF has been tracking gender disparities since 2006. Since then, the gap has only closed by 3.6%. If progress continues at the same pace, the gap won’t close for another 108 years.
Resource Watch hosts these gender gap datasets from 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. From 2010 to 2018, Cameroon has improved gender parity by more than 10%, better than any other country during this time period. WEF attributes this improvement to greater income equality and newly available data on gender parity in senior and managerial positions. The gender gap in Nicaragua, Benin, Slovenia, France and Bolivia all closed more than seven percentage points during the same time period.
Some countries have moved down the rankings, thanks to increased disparities between men and women since 2010. Lesotho and Sri Lanka both slid backwards about 7% since 2010. In the same time period, scores in Angola, the Gambia, Syria, Tajikistan, the United States and Malawi all decreased by about 2%.
In the United States, educational attainment by women has slipped in recent years. Within the political empowerment sub-index there has been no change in the number of women in minister-level positions (positions that head government departments or cabinet-level positions) since 2007. In fact, the political empowerment sub-index shows the largest disparity globally: On average, there’s an 88% gap between men’s involvement in politics and women’s.
Even though some countries are on track to narrow or even close the gender gap within our lifetimes, at the current rate of change, it will take the United States 208 years to close the gender gap.
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