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Frances Twitty

Canada sits behind Sri Lanka, Lesotho and Latvia, at No. 20, in a global measure of equality between men and women.

Nordic countries - Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden - are still on top of the World Economic Forum's gender gap study released Tuesday.

Canada's position actually improved from last year, when it was 25th, with its chief strengths in educational attainment and economic participation, the report said.

Canada lags when it comes to the earnings gap. The estimated earned income gap puts the country at 33rd in the world for this indicator. On average, the estimated earned income for Canadian women is $28,315 compared with $40,000 for men.

Separately, a Canadian study released Tuesday says the earnings wage gap is largely tied to motherhood. "Women in this group appear to be incurring larger wage penalties unrelated to their skills, education, and experience," a report by economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank said. "Evidence strongly suggests that labour force intermittency is the main, yet multidimensional, culprit."

They found women without children tend to have similiar wages to men with the same level of experience and education. Women with kids, meantime, suffer steeper wage penalties the more often they enter and exit the job market. The length of time they're away and the "skills atrophy" they incur during their absence tend to cause a hit to their pay.

Women who leave the workforce to have kids tend to experience "an unexplained, but persistent" 3-per-cent wage penalty per year of absence, economists Beata Caranci and Pascal Gauthier said.

Globally, plenty of countries shuffled places in the rankings. The U.S. climbed to the top 20 for first time in the report's five-year history due to a higher number of women in leading roles in the current administration, and improvements in the wage gap. France fell to 46th position because of fewer women in ministerial posts.

The forum's annual report ranks 134 economies according to the size of gaps between genders.

In Latin America, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba have the highest rankings. In Asia and the Pacific, the leaders are New Zealand and the Philippines, while in Africa they are Lesotho and South Africa.

The biggest gender gap in the world is in Yemen, Chad and Pakistan.

Here are some key numbers from the World Economic Forum's report:

75: Canadian women's labour force participation rate, compared to men's at 83 per cent.

22: Percentage of women in parliament.

100: Portion of girls enrolled in primary school.

36: Percentage of female legislators, senior officials and managers.

57: Percentage of females in professional and technical worker positions.

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