Female political empowerment has enabled Rwanda to close the gender gap – and break the top 10 in its first year of inclusion in the WEF report.
The sub-Saharan African nation of 12 million people is the only country in the world with more women in its parliament than men. Women hold 64 percent of the seats, having kept a majority since 2008. Female lawmakers have further narrowed the gender gap by introducing various education and health reforms.
Rwandan women have yet to make similar strides in the economy, however. While slightly more women than men are in the country’s labor force, women's average income is 34 percent smaller. In addition, women in Africa, including Rwanda, are more likely to be informally employed, making it difficult to measure their economic participation.
“In Africa, more than two-thirds of the labor force and an even a higher percentage of women is informal,” said Martha Chen, a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government who studies gender and poverty. “Those parts of the labor force are the most vulnerable.”