The 10 best countries to live in if you’re a woman and want to go to school, get a job, and be politically empowered

Scandinavian countries take top positions, while the US ranks 43rd in the World Economic Forum’s list of most gender-equal countries in 2023.

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The World Economic Forum, or WEF, released its Global Gender Gap Report 2023 in June.
The report compares gender gaps across countries in areas such as economic opportunities and educational attainment.
Scandinavian countries take top positions on the list — while the US ranks 43rd.

Although no country has fully closed its gender gap, Scandinavian countries are taking the lead, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

The report, which was published in June, looked at gender parity across 146 countries, per the World Economic Forum, or WEF. The study found that the global gender gap has closed by 68.4% — up by 0.3% from last year’s 68.1%.

The Global Gender Gap Report compares countries’ gender gap in four different areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. According to the WEF, the data is computed using the latest statistics from international organizations as well as surveys.

Methodology-wise, each of the four subindexes is computed as a weighted average of their underlying data indicators. The average of each subindex score is then used to calculate the overall Global Gender Gap Index score. 

“Global gender gaps in health and education have narrowed over the past year, yet progress on political empowerment is effectively at a standstill, and women’s economic participation has regressed rather than recovered,” Saadia Zahidi, managing director at WEF, said in the report.

At the current rate of progress, it will take 162 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment and 169 years to close the economic participation and opportunity gender gap, per the report.

Here are the top 10 countries with the smallest gender gap. The US ranked 43rd.

10. Belgium
La Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Brussels, Belgium.

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Rounding out the top 10 countries is Belgium, which has achieved an overall of 79.6% gender parity, per the WEF report. 

The country has reached full parity in terms of educational attainment. It is also moving towards closing the gap in terms of political empowerment, with full parity in ministerial positions and women holding 42.7% of parliamentary seats, per the WEF.

9. Lithuania
Balloons over Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

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Lithuania is in ninth place with 80% gender parity, per the WEF report. It has achieved 98.9% parity in educational attainment and 98% parity in terms of health and survival.

The country has also had a female prime minister since 2020.

8. Namibia
Evangelical Lutheran Church in an urban city town of Namibia, South Africa.

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Coming in eighth place is Namibia with 80.2% parity, making it the highest-ranking Sub-Saharan African country on the list, per the WEF report.

According to the WEF, the country has achieved full parity in terms of health and survival, as well as educational attainment subindexes — although both overall values are low for women and men.

In terms of political empowerment, the country has had a female prime minister since 2015.

7. Nicaragua
A colorful street in Granada, Nicaragua.

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Nicaragua has achieved 81.1% gender parity and is the highest-ranking Latin American country on the index, per the WEF report.

The country maintains the seventh spot on list, as it did in the 2022 edition of the study, per the WEF.

While it has achieved gender parity in terms of educational attainment, Nicaragua lags behind in terms of economic participation and opportunity for women, where it has only reached 64% parity.

6. Germany
Brandeburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.

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Germany has risen by four positions since 2022 to claim the sixth spot on the list in 2023, per the WEF report. It has closed 81.5% of its gender gap.

The advancement is mostly due to an increase in women holding parliamentary and ministerial positions in the country.

In addition, Germany has attained parity in enrolment in all levels of education except for secondary education, per the report.

5. Sweden
Norrbro Bridge and the Royal Opera building in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Sweden maintains its position in fifth place since the last edition of the report, per the WEF.

It has closed 81.5% of the gender gap and has achieved full parity in terms of educational attainment. 

4. New Zealand
Aerial view of Auckland City’s skyline in New Zealand at sunrise.

Jonathan Clark/Getty Images

In fourth place is New Zealand, which has closed 85.6% of its gender gap, per the WEF report.

In terms of parity in political empowerment, the country had a female head of state for 16 of the last 50 years. However, there is still a 12.5% gender gap in terms of labor-force participation. 

3. Finland
Market Square and Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral in Finland.

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Finland is in third place with a gender parity score of 86.3% in 2023, up by 0.3% from the year before, per the WEF report.

However, the life expectancy of women in the country has declined by almost 1.5 years since 2006.

2. Norway
Open-air restaurants and cafés in front of the wooden Hanseatic merchant buildings in Bergen, Norway

Fraser Hall/Getty Images

Norway has a gender parity score of 87.9%, moving up by one position to take second place this year, per the WEF report.

Most of the country’s improvements have been in the area of political empowerment: Women now hold 50% of the ministerial positions and 46.2% of parliamentary positions in the country.

However, the life expectancy at birth for women in Norway stands at 71.6 years — 2.7 years less than what it was in the 2020 edition of the report, per the WEF.

1. Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, a Lutheran parish church, in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Iceland has closed 91.2% of the gender gap and ranks first on the list for the 14th consecutive year, according to the WEF report. It’s also the only country to have closed more than 90% of its gender gap.

Regarding political empowerment, the country has had a female prime minister since 2017. Additionally, over 40% of Iceland’s ministerial and parliamentary positions are held by women. In terms of educational attainment, the country is almost at parity at 99.1%.

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