These Dozens of Countries Are Surprisingly Ahead of the United States in Gender Equality

Ben Curtis/AP

Many Americans have claimed the United States is an exceptionally progressive nation for years. Yet plenty of data suggests this is far from true across a variety of measures — and gender equality is no exception. In fact, a new World Economic Forum report recently revealed just how far behind the United States really is. 

Who is succeeding? In order to determine how countries regard gender, the WEF measured progress in four areas — health, education, economic participation and political empowerment — and assigned a score to each country. 


Unsurprisingly, Nordic countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden rounded out the top four. Iceland has particularly been recognized for its progressive gender-related policies: As Mic's Natasha Noman noted in April, Iceland was the first country in the world to legalize equal inheritance rights, elected Europe's first female president in 1980 and instituted equal parental leave in 2000. Sweden, Finland and Norway have similarly upheld feminist policies especially regarding parental leave and work-life balance.  

But even countries that usually get little credit for their treatment of women surpassed the United States. Perhaps most notably, Rwanda ranked sixth. But this distinction is well-deserved: As Quartz reported, Rwanda has more women in its parliament than men and the best perceived wage equality for similar work. Slovenia, another country not widely known for its feminist ethos, also ranked in the top 10 in no small part due to the fact that 44% of the country's ministers are women. The nation also has the second highest length of paid paternity leave, according to the WEF report.

Ben Curtis/AP

The global gender gap: While these individual countries may deserve praise for their gender-based progress, the report also revealed that global society still has plenty of work to do. 

For example, although an "extra quarter of a billion women have entered the labor force" since 2006, their annual pay now equals the amount men earned a decade ago, and women all over the world still experience an "education-employment-leadership mismatch." That means, though women enroll in higher education more frequently than men in 97 countries, women comprise the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries and the majority of leaders in just four, according to the report.

The United States, which ranked 28th, falls in line with these global failures. For example, a recent report revealed women in the United States are paid less in all industries, at every level, for the same work as men. Women lag behind in all realms of leadership as well, from government to business and beyond.

This report clearly reveals that it's not only time to discard long-standing stereotypes about which countries are most progressive, but that we must once and for all do better to close the persistent global gender gap.

h/t Quartz