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A mother pushes a stroller by a wall with portraits of children on October 8, 2008, in Reykjavik, Iceland.

A mother pushes a stroller by a wall with portraits of children on October 8, 2008, in Reykjavik, Iceland.


Canada has fallen again in the global gender rankings thanks in part to a widening wage gap and still relatively low female participation in government. Erin Anderssen looks at revealing statistics – from hours spent on housework to lengths of maternity leave – to gauge today's degree of gender parity

Trish McAlaster/The Globe and Mail

The best place to be a woman

The northern nation yet again takes the top place in the World Economic Forum's gender rankings for 2015, with the Scandinavian trifecta of Norway, Finland and Sweden making repeat showings in the next three spots. Canada ranks 30th – a big fall from the country's 19th-place ranking in the 2014 study and a steep decline from 10 years ago, when Canada ranked 14th. What hurt us: a too-wide wage gap and too few female politicians.

A woman pushes a stroller as she passes the City Hall polling station in Reykjavík, Iceland.

A woman pushes a stroller as she passes the City Hall polling station in Reykjavík, Iceland.


Safest country to have a baby

In Iceland, the maternal mortality rate is three women for every 100,000 births – according to the World Bank, that's the lowest in the world. Iceland also has the lowest mortality rate for children under age 5. According to a 2014 paper in the journal The Lancet, Iceland also ranked first among 195 for its neonatal mortality rate – for every 100,000 births, only one baby is lost. In Canada, the maternal mortality rate is seven for every 100,000 births. Compare that to Sierra Leone, where the death rate is nearly 200 times higher. Progress has been made: Since 1990, the global maternal mortality rate has dropped by 44 per cent, according to the World Health Organization. But around the world, every day, 830 women still die from a preventable cause during pregnancy and childbirth.

Trish McAlaster/The Globe and Mail

Country with longest paid parental leave

In Estonia, parents can take up to three years of leave, fully paid for the first 435 days and partially paid for the rest; mothers and fathers can spell each other off as they choose. Many European countries have extensive paid and unpaid leaves for both moms and dad. (In Bulgaria, grandparents can take some of the paid leave.) Canadian parents get a year, partially paid; the Liberals have promised to make parental leave more flexible. With research showing benefits to families and a more gender-balanced economy, more than half of OECD countries now offer leave only fathers can use. Korea and Japan have the best daddy deal: a year of paid leave. The United States is the only OECD nation that doesn't offer any paid maternity leave.

Country where men do the most housework

Danish men may contribute more unpaid labour when child care is added, but according to time-use data compiled by the OECD, men in Slovenia claim the top spot for time spent cleaning and sweeping: 114 minutes a day. (Danish men come second on routine housework, at 107 minutes.) In India, men pitch in a mere 19 minutes of their time. Canadian men do more of their share at 83 minutes, but in every country, women still, on average, spend more of their day on chores. As Melinda Gates recently pointed out, the global division of unpaid labour is an important equal-rights issue. While Western women are fighting for an equal laundry load, women in African nations such as Ethiopia are twice as likely as men to be lugging water and collecting firewood, according to the OECD for an average of seven hours a day.

A vendor looks at clothing in a store at the Teck Ghee Court Market & Food Centre in the Ang Mo Kio area of Singapore, on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

A vendor looks at clothing in a store at the Teck Ghee Court Market & Food Centre in the Ang Mo Kio area of Singapore, on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

The safest country to be a woman

In Singapore, women, at 92 per cent, were the most likely to say they felt safe walking alone at night, in Gallup's 2015 international law and order survey. (Overall, considering measures such as trust for police, Singapore also ranked first.) A 2013 survey of violence against women in Singapore also found relatively low rates: Six per cent of women reported being the victims of domestic violence over their lifetime – a rate similar to Canada's. (By comparison, only 69 per cent of Canadian women said they felt safe walking alone.) But international comparisons can be skewed by the willingness of women to come forward and culture's understanding of what constitutes violence: For instance, Sweden and Denmark, countries known for gender equality, have the highest rates in Europe. The conversation about violence – and the ability for women to come forward – is certainly different in parts of the world where not only are rates much higher, but where there is a high level of acceptance as well. In a 2012 survey cited in the United Nations most recent Women's World Report, 92 per cent of women in Guinea said that a man could be justified for beating his wife. (In a similar survey of teenaged girls in East Timor, 81 per cent agreed.) Surveys over time, the report noted, suggest however hat these attitudes are changing, for the better.

Trish McAlaster/The Globe and Mail

Country with the smallest gender-wage gap
New Zealand

Women working full-time in New Zealand earn, on average, about 5.6 per cent less than men, the smallest gap among 34 OECD countries, according to 2013 statistics. Korea has the widest gap at nearly 37 per cent. However Canada ranks a lousy 28th on that list, with a gap of 19 per cent. (A new Globe and Mail analysis of the wage gap, using Statistics Canada data, suggests it's even lower, with women making 73.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man.) And that gap widens significantly for immigrant and aboriginal women, as a new report by Oxfam and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives points out. It certainly doesn't help that truck drivers, who are 97-per-cent male, earn a median wage of $45,417, while early-childhood educators, who are 97 per-cent-female, earn only $25,334.

Country with the highest percentage of female cabinet ministers

Canada comes close: Thanks to Justin Trudeau's gender-balanced cabinet, the country now ranks among a handful of nations to have at least 50 per cent women serving as government ministers. Finland, however, tops the list at 63 per cent in 2015, according to the United Nations. Still, with women representing only 26 per cent of seats in the House of Commons, Canada still lags behind the UN goal of 30 per cent – and falls well behind Rwanda, the global leader, where 64 per cent of the politicians in the national parliament are women.

Country with the most female inventors

Among inventors, Portugal has the highest share of women at nearly 18 per cent, according to the OECD. Out of 15 countries, Canada ranks 13th – one in 10 of the country's inventors are women, slightly more than in the United States. Portugal also ranks seventh for the percentage of female entrepreneurs with employees – though Greece leads this measurement. Canada comes 10th – 2.6 per cent of working women are running their own businesses with employees – less than half the rate of Canadian men.

Country with the most female board members

Yes, it's Iceland (again!). In this country, women hold 44 per cent of the seats on the boards of publicly traded companies, according to 2015 data by Catalyst. That puts them well ahead of Norway, in second place, at 36 per cent. Canada shows up in the middle of the pack – one-fifth of board seats are held by women (marginally better than the United States). But in Japan, testosterone in the boardroom is at record levels: only 3 per cent of board members are women.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

Country with the most self-made female billionaires

The richest self-made woman in the world, according to the Hurun Report's 2015 list, was 45-year-old Zhou Qunfei, who was born to a poor family in rural China, became a factory worker and eventually founded Lens Technology, the largest maker of glass covers for mobile phones and tablets. Altogether, according to Huran, China can lay claim to 49 of 73 woman who became billionaires without either inheriting it or marrying into it. The United States comes second with 15 names on the list.

University students talk as they leave Ewha Campus Complex of Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, South Korea.

University students talk as they leave Ewha Campus Complex of Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea.


Most University Educated Female Millennials
South Korea

In South Korea, nearly 72 per cent of women between the ages of 25 and 32 attained some form of postsecondary education, according to OECD data from 2014, well ahead of their male peers. Canada was a close second – here, 67 per cent of women of that age received a postsecondary credential. They also outpaced their male counterparts, by 17 per cent.

Trish McAlaster/The Globe and Mail

Country with the highest proportion of female mathematicians

Women make up 67 per cent of the doctoral-level mathematicians in Estonia, the highest rate among OECD countries. Canada, by comparison, ranks near the bottom of 31 countries: Less than one-quarter of mathematicians at the same level are women.

Country with highest proportion of female graduates in computing

In Colombia, women account for nearly 70 per cent of the university graduates with a degree in computing – by far the highest proportion among OECD nations. Compare that to Canada, where women hold just 17 per cent of bachelor degrees in this field.