When more than half of the world's population wakes up on the 101st International Women's Day – it will be hard to know whether to celebrate or give in to despair. A British woman will face the prospect of at least 14 more general elections before women equal men in the Commons. But a woman in Qatar will be six times more likely to go to university than the man next door.
The global gender
gap defies simple solutions. Eighty-five per cent of countries have
improved conditions for women over the past six years, according to the
World Economic Forum, but in economic and political terms there is still
a long way to go.
"From London to Lahore," says Oxfam, "inequality between men and
women persists." Here The Independent on Sunday explores the best places
to be a woman today.
1. Best place to be a woman: Iceland
Iceland has the greatest equality between men and women, taking into account politics, education, employment and health indicators. The UK comes in at 16th place, down one since 2010. The worst is Yemen, and the most dangerous is Afghanistan.
2. Best place to be a politician: Rwanda
Rwanda is the only nation in which females make up the majority of
parliamentarians. Women hold 45 out of 80 seats. The UK comes in at 45th
place, behind Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. The worst countries,
such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Oman and Belize, have no women in
3. Best place to be a mother: Norway
Norway is the world's best place to be a mother, with low risks of
maternal mortality – one in 7,600 – and skilled help at nearly all
births. The UK is ranked 13th. The worst is Afghanistan, where a woman
is at least 200 times more likely to die during childbirth than from
bombs or bullets.
4. Best place to read and write: Lesotho
Literacy rates among women in Lesotho exceed those of men, with 95
per cent of women able to read and write, compared with 83 per cent of
men. The UK is ranked 21st. The worst country is Ethiopia, where only 18
per cent of women can read and write, compared with 42 per cent of men.
5. Best place to be head of state: Sri Lanka
Women have run Sri Lanka for 23 years. The UK comes in at seventh
place, while dozens of countries, including Spain and Sweden, have never
had a female head of government.
6. Best place to be a woman in the arts: Sweden
The Swedish Arts Council has launched initiatives to improve gender equality
in the arts. The Swedish Film Institute mandates that film grants be
distributed evenly between men and women and there are quotas for women
in film production. In the UK, only 6 per cent of film directors and 12
per cent of screenwriters are women.
7. Best place to be a top dog: Thailand
Thailand has the greatest percentage of women in senior management
(45 per cent). The UK did not rank in the top 20 countries, with 23 per
cent of senior management made up of women. The lowest is Japan, where 8
per cent of senior management positions are held by women.
8. Best place to give birth: Greece
Greece is the world's safest place to give birth, with a one in
31,800 risk of dying in childbirth. The UK is in 13th position, but the
worst place to have a baby is thought to be the world's newest country,
South Sudan. There are fewer than 20 midwives in the whole country.
9. Best place for economic participation: Bahamas
The Bahamas holds the top spot globally for economic participation
and opportunity for women. The UK ranks 33rd. The Bahamas has closed its
gender gap by 91 per cent in the past six years, while the lowest-ranking country, Yemen, has closed only 32 per cent of its economic gender gap in the same period.
10. Best place to be a journalist: Caribbean
The Caribbean is the region with the highest proportion of TV, print
and radio news stories reported by women (45 per cent). The worst region
is Africa, with 30 per cent of stories reported by women. Europe comes
in at 35 per cent. In the UK, about 9 per cent of national newspaper
editors are women.
11. Best place for the right to choose: Sweden
Sweden permits women to have abortions without restrictions for the
first 18 weeks of pregnancy and there are no mandatory consent
requirements. El Salvador, the Philippines and Nicaragua are among the
worst because of a ban on all abortions. British women can have an abortion up to 24 weeks; two doctors have to give consent.
12. Best place for labour force participation: Burundi
Burundi in sub-Saharan Africa ranks first for labour force
participation and is the only country where the female labour force
participation rate (92 per cent) is higher than that of men (88 per
cent). The UK is ranked 47th. The worst country is Pakistan, where the
labour force is made up of four times as many men as women.
13. Best place to earn money: Luxembourg
Luxembourg shares the top spot (with Norway) for estimated earned
income. When income is capped at $40,000, women and men are as likely to
earn the same amount. The UK is ranked 23rd, while the lowest female
earners are in Saudi Arabia, where women earn $7,157 to men's $36,727.
14. Best place to go to university: Qatar
In Qatar six women are enrolled in tertiary education for every man.
Questions remain as to whether their investment in education has led to
the integration of women into the economy. The UK is ranked 38th. The
worst country is Chad, where three times as many men are enrolled as
15. Best place to live long: Japan
Women in Japan can expect to live longest (87), beating men by seven years. Female life expectancy is shortest in Lesotho (48), but only two years less than men. Life expectancy
in the UK has reached its highest recorded level for men (78) and women
(82). It has the smallest gender gap, four years, of any country in the
16. Best place to be a lady of leisure: Denmark
Women in Denmark have more time for leisure, spending only 57 more
minutes each day on unpaid work than men, the lowest in the OECD.
British women spend two hours more per day doing unpaid work than men.
Mexican women have it hardest, spending four hours 21 minutes more on
unpaid work than men.
17. Best place to be an athlete: US
Five of the top 10 highest-paid female sporting athletes in 2011 were
from the US. The worst country, Saudi Arabia, has never sent a female
athlete to the Olympics and bans girls from sports in state schools.
Sponsorship of British women's sport came to 0.5 per cent of the market
between January 2010 and August 2011.
18. Best place to leave your husband: Guam
The Micronesian island of Guam has the highest divorce rate in the
world, and Guatemala has the lowest. The number of divorces in England
and Wales in 2010 increased by 4.9 per cent since 2009.
19. Best place to drive a car: India
New Delhi is the best place for women wanting to break into the
male-dominated world of taxi drivers. An NGO in the country's capital
launched an initiative to train women in the first radio-taxi service
run only by women. The worst country is Saudi Arabia, the only country
in the world to ban women from driving.
20. Best place for high-skilled jobs: Jamaica
Jamaica has the highest ratio of women in high-skilled jobs, such as
legislators, senior officials and managers. Almost 60 per cent of these
roles are filled by women. The UK is ranked 35th in the global survey,
with Yemen coming last. Women there take up only 2 per cent of
Source: Independent, 4 March 2012