Wednesday, March 7, 2012

International Women's Day

Thursday is the 101st International Women's Day. Eighty-five percent of countries have improved conditions for women over the past six years, according to the World Economic Forum, but in economic and political terms there is still a long way to go. Empowering and educating girls and women and fully leveraging their talent and leadership in the global economy, politics, and society are fundamental elements of the new models required to tackle the current economic challenges and to build sustainable growth.

Equality and empowerment for women is embraced more today than any other time in world history. In the global push for gender equality in everything from business to politics, education to health, Europe has made the greatest strides to close the so-called gender gap. The World Economic Forum, a nonprofit organization known for its annual economic summit in Davos Switzerland has been publishing an annual Global Gender Gap Report since 2006 that ranks countries by their gender performance.

The index examines the gap between men and women in 135 countries in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. The majority of the data reported come from various non-government organizations such as the International Labor Organization, United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization. A short summary of the report results follows.

Greatest equality between men and women: Iceland tops the list for gender equality, with Norway, Finland and Sweden rounding out the top four best countries. The Nordic countries and their Western European neighbors account for 13 of the top 20 countries with the greatest gender parity in the world. The US ranks 17th, behind South Africa, Lesotho, and the Philippines. Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen rank at the bottom.

Best country for a woman to be a mother: Norway has the lowest risks of maternal mortality – one in 7,600 – and provides skilled help at nearly all births. The worst is Afghanistan.

Best country for female literacy: Literacy rates among women in Lesotho exceed those of men, with 95 percent of women able to read and write, compared with 83 percent of men.  The US shows no gap in educational attainment, with very high levels of literacy for both women and men.

Best country for female leadership: Thailand has the greatest percentage of women in senior management, while Sri Lanka has the greatest percentage of governmental leaders. In the political empowerment subindex, the US ranks 39th out of 135.  In addition, wage inequality in the US remains high, placing us 68th in the world on this variable.

Best country for a woman to go to college: Qatar has six women enrolled in tertiary education for every man.  In Norway, Sweden and Iceland there are over 1.5 women for every man enrolled in tertiary education, and in Finland and Denmark women also make up the majority of those in tertiary education

Best country for a woman to live a long life: Japanese women have the highest life expectancy on the planet.  Regionally, North America holds the top spot for health and survival.

Read the full report here.  The Independent also provides a summary.

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