The Global Gender Gap Report 2011

Publication Year: 
Published by: 
World Economic Forum

Many of the world’s women are moving closer to gender equality, but substantial gaps remain between men and women in health, education and, particularly, political and economic participation in a number of countries, including some of the most developed, according to a new global report.

Measuring against 2010 rankings, for example, the Sixth Annual World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 found that New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom showed slight declines in their overall gender equality rankings, while Brazil, Ethiopia, Qatar, Tanzania and Turkey posted gains.

Despite women making major strides in political leadership globally in the past year, including the election of a female president in Brazil, the winning of the Nobel Peace Prize by three women, including the female president of Liberia, women still only hold 20 percent of national decision-making positions, the report found.

“A world where women make up less than 20 percent of the global decision-makers is a world that is missing a huge opportunity for growth and ignoring an untapped reservoir of potential,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum.

In contrast, international scores for health and education provided a bright spot, with 96 percent of the health gaps and 93 percent of those in education already closed, according to the report.

Established in 2006, the Global Gender Gap Index surveys 135 countries, representing more than 93 percent of the world’s population. It measures gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in those countries, not on their level of development or the overall level of resources available.

The index looks at four areas: economic participation and opportunity in terms of salaries, participation and highly skilled employment; access to basic and higher education; political representation in decision-making national bodies and health in terms of life expectancy and sex ratio.

Since the index began, 85 percent of the countries have improved their gender equality ratios, but in the rest of the world the situation is declining, particularly in several African and South American countries, the survey found. In the last year, 55 percent of the countries showed improvement in closing gender gaps, but 45 percent deteriorated.

 “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long road ahead of us,” said report co-author Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

As they have in recent years, Iceland (ranked 1), Norway (2), Finland (3) and Sweden (4) continued to lead the top 20 rankings, having closed more than 80 percent of their gender gaps. But countries languishing in the bottom rankings still face gaps of more than 50 percent in some areas.

In Europe, for example, Italy (74) and Turkey (122) were among the lowest –ranking in terms of access to education, economic participation and political empowerment for women, while Switzerland (10) continued to post gains.

Other highlights of the report:

  • India (113) ranked lowest on gender parity among the BRICS countries, which also include Brazil (82), Russia (43), China (61) and South Africa (14)
  • Cuba (20) edged back into the top 20, moving up four slots, to lead the Latin American and Caribbean region.
  • United Arab Emirates (113) took the top slot in its region, with Yemen (135) the lowest-ranking Arab country
  • USA (17) moved up two slots due to a narrowing of wage gaps and slower growth in other countries
  • Gender gaps declines most marked in Nigeria, Mali, Colombia,Tanzania and El Salvador since 2006.


WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf2.3 MB