Countries around the world have been observing International Women’s Day for nearly a century now. Every year, on March 8, thousands of events are held globally to celebrate women’s achievements, but also to highlight the challenges women still face in attaining gender equality. This past weekend saw hundreds of activities in honor of International Women’s Day in the United States, which was the first country ever to observe Women’s Day.

Although great strides have been made in pursuit of gender equality, “the unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.”

In honor of International Women’s Day and the positive changes being made in reducing the gender divide, the following list will outline achievements in the top five countries that have made the most progress in bridging the gap. The countries are ranked based on the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, which assesses the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities in terms of four dimensions: health, education, economics and politics.

  1. Iceland: Iceland has held the top spot for a consecutive five years, holding the narrowest gender gap in the world. Improvements in economic participation and opportunity and the political empowerment dimensions increased its overall score for 2013.
  2. Finland: Finland has closed both its educational attainment and health and survival gender gaps.
  3. Norway: Norway holds one of the top three spots on the Women in ministerial positions indicator, with 53 percent of women in ministerial positions.
  4. Sweden: Sweden has the highest percentages of women in parliament globally, hailing at 44.7 percent.
  5. Philippines: The Philippines moved up three places on the index due to improvements made in the economic participation and opportunity dimensions. It is also “the only country in Asia and the Pacific that has fully closed the gender gap in both education and health.”

The report indicates that all of the Nordic countries (except Denmark) have closed “over 80 percent of the gender gap and thus serve as models and useful benchmarks for international comparison.” More interestingly, the study notes that because the economies of these countries have made it possible for parents to combine work and family, female employment is at an all-time high.

While the U.S.’s overall score improved in 2013, it fell to number 23 due to the stronger performance of other countries on the political empowerment dimension. The U.S. has, however, fully closed its gender gap in education and health.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: The Eastern Tribune, International Women’s Day, The Globalist, World Economic Forum
Photo: I, me, myself