The study, by the World Economic Forum (WEF), examined the “gender gap” in 58 countries including 30 industrialised countries and 28 developing countries. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland held the top five position in the rankings, as the countries with the smallest gender gap.
Sweden achieved top spot for the educational attainment and health and well-being categories, fifth place for economic participation, eighth place for political empowerment and twelfth for economic opportunity.
The WEF said that equality in the Nordic region was helped by “strongly liberal societies, with an impressive record of openness and transparency in government, and comprehensive safety nets that provide security to vulnerable groups in the population.”
The report cautioned that even in the Nordic countries, a gender gap remains. Yet it went on to praise Sweden and its neighbours for being best in the world at narrowing it and “providing a workable model for the rest of the world.”
“These societies seem to have understood the economic incentive behind empowering women: countries that do not fully capitalize on one-half of their human resources are clearly undermining their competitive potential,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist and Director of the Global Competitiveness Programme at the World Economic Forum.
The fact that Sweden is already the world leader on equality is has not prevented the recently founded Feminist Initiative turning women’s rights into a hot political topic. The Local spoke to Gudrun Schyman – one of the movement’s founders, and asked her if the findings call into question the need for a feminist party in Sweden.
Schyman, who had not read the report, reiterated the necessity of a feminist political voice because “Swedish society is formed by a patriarchal gender system”. According to her, Swedish women are subordinated to men and suffer from high levels of domestic violence and discrimination in the labour market.
David Murphy is managing director of Word of Mouth Communications