The Best Countries to be a Working Woman

According to The Economist’s latest “Glass Ceiling Index” — which draws on data from a variety of sources, such as the OECD, European Union, and the International Labor Organization — the following are the best (and worst) developed countries to be a working woman, as determined by several weighted indicators ranging from educational attainment to paid maternity leave.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the famously egalitarian Nordic countries top the list, excelling across all measures (as they do in most metrics of socioeconomic prosperity).

Women are present in the labour force at similar rates to men. Finland has the largest share of women who have gone through higher education compared with men (49% of women have a tertiary degree, and 35% of men). Norway’s gender wage-gap (6.3%) is less than half the OECD average (15.5%).

Women have 44% of seats on listed-company boards in Iceland; strong representation in Scandinavian boardrooms is common thanks to quotas. Norway and Iceland also have voluntary political-party quotas, as does Sweden where 44% of parliamentary seats are occupied by women, one of the highest rates in the world. Hungary ranks fifth, having the lowest gender wage gap, of 3.8%. Despite having few women on boards (11%) and in parliament (10%), Hungary has generous paid leave for mothers (71 weeks at 100% of recent pay) and low child-care costs.

Poland, France, New Zealand, and Belgium round out the top ten. At the bottom, by quite a margin, are Japan, Turkey, and South Korea; not as many women have degrees, hold senior management positions, or participate in the workforce in general, though to some degree these trends are improving.

You can click here to see the original interactive infographic, which allows you to adjust the weight of each value. For example, in terms of affordable child core, South Korea attains a nearly perfect score, followed by Austria, Hungary, and Greece. In terms of paid leave, Hungary tops the list, followed by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria. In most cases though, the Scandinavian nations remain at or near the top of every indicator.

For its part, the U.S. ranks slightly below the developed-world average, scoring higher than average in factors like labor force participation, higher education, and the share of senior business positions occupied by women (in which it scores the highest of any country — the only indicator where it is in the top ten).




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