Top 10 countries for women: Global Gender Gap Index 2010

The World Economic Forum released its 2010 Global Gender Gap Report on Tuesday. The report, which indexed 134 countries this year, evaluates how much of the gender gap each country has eliminated through economic opportunity, health access, education, and political empowerment. Below are the 10 countries that have been most successful. You can also read more about this year's report at our Global News blog.

Boston

10.Switzerland

Switzerland broke into the top 10 for the first time this year, closing 76 percent of the country's gender gap. It climbed from No. 13 in 2009 and No. 26 in 2006, the first year the report was published. An increase in female representation in government has driven much of its rise; in the category of political empowerment, Switzerland ranked No. 13 this year (it was No. 40 in 2007). A female-majority cabinet was appointed in September 2010, although that occurred too recently to be reflected in the report data. The country ranked No. 30 for economic opportunity, No. 71 for education, and No. 74 for health (the other three factors on which countries were evaluated).

9.The Philippines

The Philippines, which has closed 77 percent of its gender gap, is the highest-ranking country in Asia and the highest-ranking in the world in the categories of education and health – although several countries in the top 10 share the No. 1 spot for educational equity. It has done well in past years, too – No. 9 in 2009 and No. 6 in 2006. It is the only country in Asia to fully close the gender gap in education and health and one of only eight countries in the world to do so. It is No. 13 in the world for economic opportunity and No. 17 for political empowerment.

8.Lesotho

Little-known Lesotho, a small constitutional monarchy that is completely surrounded by South Africa, has closed 77 percent of its gender gap. It has no gap at all between women and men when it comes to education or health – the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that can claim this – and it topped the category of economic opportunity, with 88 percent of that gap closed. It was No. 10 overall in 2009 and No. 43 in 2006.

7.Denmark

Denmark is the fifth Nordic country to make it into the top 10. It claimed the No. 7 spot for the third year in a row. It has closed 76 percent of its gender gap overall and has been in the top 10 since the index began in 2006, ranking No. 8 in 2006 and 2007. Like Lesotho and The Philippines, it has completely eliminated its educational gap. It ranked No. 20 in economic opportunity and No. 11 in political empowerment.

6.Ireland

Ireland, another country that has been in the top 10 since the first year of the gender gap index, moved up to No. 6 this year from its No. 8 spot in 2008 and 2009. It has eliminated 78 percent of its gender gap and has completely closed its gap on education. It also does well with political empowerment – it is No. 7 in that category. It is No. 25 in economic opportunity for women and No. 89 for health equity.

5.New Zealand

Although it has experienced a decrease in economic opportunity, political empowerment, and health equity, New Zealand remains No. 5, its rank for the past two years. It has eliminated 78 percent of its gender gap (down from 79 percent in 2008 and 2009) and has been in the top 10 since the beginning of the index. It has fully eliminated its education equity gap and is ranked No. 9 in economic opportunity, No. 91 in educational attainment, and No. 8 in political empowerment.

4.Sweden

Sweden, which topped the original list in 2006, slipped because its gender gap closure – 80 percent – has remained unchanged since that first year. It does best in political empowerment, where it is No. 4 overall and No. 1 in the subset of the representation of women in parliament. When it comes to education equity, Sweden lags far behind many of the others in the top 10 – it is No. 41, largely because of poor performance in primary education enrollment. It ranks No. 11 in economic opportunity and No. 80 in health.

3.Finland

Finland, last year's No. 2, improved relative to its scores last year, but not as much as this year's No. 2, Norway, did. Finland has closed 83 percent of its overall gender gap and is only slightly shy of entirely closing its health gap, a fact that gives it the No. 1 ranking in that category. It has been in the top 3 since the index began in 2006. It scores second in political empowerment and was ranked 16th in economic opportunity and 28th in educational attainment (lagging in primary education enrollment, like Sweden).

2.Norway

Slight improvements in women's labor-force participation, wage quality, and women's earned income put Norway, which has also closed 83 percent of its gender gap, ahead of Finland this year. Finland, Norway and Iceland have swapped the top 3 spots since the index began in 2006. Norway has completely closed its education gap and performs well on economic opportunity (ranked No. 3, with 83 percent of the gap closed) and political empowerment (also No. 3), but it falters on health equity, where it is ranked No. 91.

1.Iceland

Iceland, which has closed 85 percent of its gender gap and topped the list last year as well, overtook Norway, Finland, and Sweden because of an increase in the number of women ministers, an almost completely gender-balanced parliament, and the election of a female prime minister. It ranks No. 1 in political empowerment, No. 18 in economic opportunity and No. 96 in health equity. While it lags in salary equity, it also does well with a paternal leave system, preschool and daycare provided by the municipalities, legislation to ensure greater gender equity in the private sector, and parents' legal right to return to their jobs after childbirth. It was No. 4 in 2006, 2007, and 2008.