Women gain as the global gender gap narrows, report shows

80% of countries around the world have increased gender equality since 2006

The equality gap between men and women has narrowed in most countries in the past year, a new report shows.

The Global Gender Gap Report, produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF), examines gender disparities in 136 countries in the areas of economics, politics, education and health, and found that women are faring almost as well as men in terms of health and survival.

According to the report: “On average, in 2013, over 96 percent of the gap in health outcomes, 93 percent of the gap in educational attainment, 60 percent of the gap in economic participation and 21 percent of the gap in political empowerment has been closed.”

Iceland, Finland and Norway top the list, while the Middle East and North Africa were the only regions that have not shown any improvement over the past year, with Yemen at the bottom. The Philippines and Nicaragua both feature in the top ten, ranking 5th and 10th respectively. Great Britain comes in 18th, while the USA ranks 23rd.

Report founder and co-author Saadia Zahidi told the BBC that since the WEF started compiling the index in 2006, 80% of countries have made progress in narrowing gender divides, but she said it is “worrying” that 20% of countries have made no progress or are falling behind.

“Women make up one half of the human capital available to any economy and any company; if that talent isn’t integrated, that is going to be a loss for both women and men,” she said.

However, the index is not designed to ‘name and shame’ poorer performing countries, but to act as a tool in improving their situation. According to WEF chairman Klaus Schwab: “It is our hope that this latest edition will continue to inspire further research, policy changes and new projects by businesses, governments, civil society and universities, and will serve as a call to action to transform the pace of change on a fundamental issue of our time.”