Earlier this year the World Economic Forum released The Global Gender Gap Report for 2013. The report ranks countries on national gender gaps with economic, political, educational, and health-based criteria. The report was created in 2006 and is used as an estimate for a country’s level of gender equality as well as national competitiveness. The information shows most countries are making slow progress in closing several gender gaps.
The Nordic countries continue to dominate the top 10 list with highest levels of gender equality.
- Iceland (moved up from 4th place in 2006)
- Finland (moved up from 3rd place in 2006)
- Norway (moved down from 2nd place in 2006)
- Sweden (moved down from 1st place in 2006)
- Philippines (moved up from 6th place in 2006)
- Ireland (moved up from 10th place in 2006)
- New Zealand (remains at 7th place since 2006)
- Denmark (remains at 8th place since 2006)
- Switzerland (moved up from 26th place in 2006)
- Nicaragua (moved up from 62nd place in 2006)
This list of rankings reveals a rough picture of the level of gender equality in various countries. For several years, the Nordic countries, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have been seen as role models in implementing policies and practices to reduce gender inequalities in various sectors. However, this famous five has also been riding on waves of exaltment, which may actually impede development for women.
Take my native country Sweden as an example. In the past eight years, Sweden has fallen from the top rank to 4th place after its Nordic neighbours. This decline does not suggest that Sweden has become a more difficult place for women to live, as the ranking is a comparison with the ratings of other countries. However, based on Sweden’s individual ratings in The Global Gender Gap Report, the country has not been making strides to improve gender equality.
Since 2006, NOTHING has happened with Sweden’s overall gender equality score.
For educational attainment the gender gap is minimal, as far more women than men pursue a higher education at the teritary level (the female-to-male ratio being 1.52). In regards to health and survival Sweden has closed the gender gap – even in this aspect, women outdo men with a longer life expectancy. Currently, Sweden’s progress is hindered and improvement is lacking within economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment. Although Sweden has more female than male ministers in the current government, Sweden has not had a female head of state in the past 50 years. Neither has Sweden closed the gender gap with participation in parliament (the female-to-male ratio being 0.81).
Even though women are investing more in higher education than their male counterparts and the majority of graduates from universities today are women, Sweden ranks 75th in terms of wage equality for similar work. The European Union report on The Gender Pay Gap, shows that countries like Italy, Poland and Romania have more wage equality than Sweden. Sweden must work hard to destroy the glass ceiling that limits women from high-level opportunities as legislators, senior officials and managers.
There are several factors that are not a part of World Economic Forum’s calculations, such as levels of violence against women (e.g. sexual assaults, FGM) and other levels of insecurity. Details regarding access to sexual and reproductive health services or maternity and paternity benefits are also excluded. The report alone should not be used to determine a country’s status for women.
As we continue to see the Nordic countries (Sweden among them) as role models, we must acknowledge the need for continued progress. There is still room for feminism to take it’s place and ensure that women and men are treated equally in all sectors and in all rooms – from the delivery room to the board room.
This June, I am happy to have the possibility to attend Nordic Forum – New Action on Women’s Rights taking place in my home town Malmö, Sweden. The conference is organized by the Nordic Women’s Movement as a progressive joint effort to manifest our determination to work together towards an equal society where women have full human rights, in the Nordic region, in Europe and internationally. It is my hope that Sweden does not give in to complacency, but understands the importance to make progress for gender equality – for women and men.