Foreign Policy Blogs

Closing the Gender Gap


A women's self help group for microfinance in India

A women's self help group for microfinance in India

The World Economic Forum released their annual Global Gender Gap Report today, reporting on how successfully (or unsuccessfully) countries have been in the last year when it comes to closing the gender gap between men and women in the key areas of political and economic participation, educational opportunities, and health.  Norway lost out on its top spot to Iceland, and fell to third place behind Finland while Sweden ranked fourth.  The only other European countries to finish in the top ten were Denmark (7) and Ireland (8), while the Philippines slipped three spots to rank ninth.  However, South Africa improved dramatically, ranking sixth compared to twenty-two last year, while Lesotho moved up to rank tenth compared to sixteen in 2008.

Overall, the UK ranked 15, Canada 25, and the US dropped a few spots to 31, however the US and UK were among a handful of countries to tie for first place in equal educational attainment.  At the bottom of the list was Yemen, followed by Chad, Pakistan, Benin, and Saudi Arabia.  While there was some improvement among states in the Middle East and North Africa, countries from those regions dominated the lower rankings.

Increasingly many countries are recognizing that closing the gender gap is not just a women’s rights issue, but a necessity for sustained development.  However such change in attitudes can be difficult, especially in the face of contrary traditional norms.  Nonetheless, the overall assessment made by the report was that 67% of countries made improvements in closing the gender gap, while 33% saw conditions deteriorate over the last year.  Although it is unfortunate that a third of the world is slipping backwards from equal rights for women, it is encouraging that generally we are moving in the right direction.

For more highlights from the report, check out the Press Release issued by the WEF.



Kimberly J. Curtis
Kimberly J. Curtis

Kimberly Curtis has a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor from American University in Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of The Women's Empowerment Institute of Cameroon and has worked for human rights organizations in Rwanda and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @curtiskj

Areas of Focus: Transitional justice; Women's rights; Africa

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