The 30 Countries with the Smallest Gender Gap

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Despite significant advances in gender equality, men and women are still treated differently in what is a major barrier to social justice. Globally, women continue to play a lesser role than men in leadership and business. These gaps lead to pay parities and a lack of power for women in many aspects of their lives, including health care, education, and family life.

24/7 Tempo used the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report to compile a list of the 30 countries with the smallest gender gaps. The report assesses 153 countries and their progress toward gender parity, which is defined as equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender. Every country has a score between zero and one; zero means imparity; one means parity achieved.

Globally, the overall gender gap stood at 68.6% in 2020, a slight improvement from the gap of 64% reported in 2006, when the first edition of the report was published.

The fact that Scandinavian countries lead the way in gender equality is not surprising. What some people may find surprising is that the list of 30 countries with the smallest gender gaps includes developing countries such as Rwanda but not the United States, which came in 53rd.

The report is not a ranking of the best places for women to live in. For example, even though Nicaragua ranks fifth, it does not mean women there are overall better off than women in Luxembourg, which ranks 51st. The WEF index measures countries on their progress in closing the gender gap, meaning having the same economic, survival, education, and political opportunities as men in that country.

All geographical regions in the report have achieved at least a 60% gender parity. Western Europe is leading the way with the smallest overall gender gap — 23.3% remains to be closed, which is estimated to happen in about 54 years. North America (27.1%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (27.9%) are second and third.

The disparity in economic and political opportunities for men and women has always been a problem. Women in many countries, especially those with more advanced economies, are relatively well educated but also paid relatively little compared with men — this is how much women are earning in even the best countries for working.