Rwanda outpacing Canada in closing gender gap

Women wear traditional gowns while waiting to march into the Kicukiro College of Technology football pitch April 5, 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

When thinking of global leaders on gender equality, what countries come to mind? Iceland? Check, they’re at top of this year’s Global Gender Gap ranking. Canada? Not quite there yet. Rwanda?

You betcha.

In this annual report from the World Economic Forum, Rwanda ranked fourth out of 144 countries for having the smallest gap between men and women. It’s the only African country that ranks in the top 10 (there are no North American countries in the top 10).

The report looked at four areas that contribute to gender inequality: health, education, economy and politics.

Rwanda is first globally for health and survival in 2017. They also ranked third for political empowerment, seventh in economic participation and opportunity and 113th for educational attainment. Since its first year on the ranking, it has closed 82 per cent of its gender gap. Its improvement is largely based on the narrowing of the gender wage gap, and the impressive number of women in parliament; 61 per cent of Rwanda’s parliamentarians are women, the highest percentage of anywhere in the world.

Canada, meanwhile, ranked 16th overall. It wasn’t all bad news, though: Canada ranks first among all countries for educational attainment. It also ranked 20th for political empowerment, 29th for economic participation and opportunity, and a distant 105th for health and survival.

Even while coming in 16th, it’s a good-news story for Canada. The country climbed 19 ranks on the 2017 index, breaking into the top 20 for the first time. Trudeau’s push for gender parity in his government helped substantially improve Canada’s political empowerment score. Canada has closed 77 per cent of the gender gap since the start of the annual report, however that gap has actually increased by 3 per cent since 2015.

The low health and survival score comes from the healthy life expectancy of Canadians: the average live expectancy for women is 73.3 years and 71.3 years for men, putting Canada at 113th when it comes to global life expectancy. Because the survey weights the gap between how long a woman versus how long a man lives in the country, the narrow difference in lifespan, actually hurt Canada’s rank.

The United States ranked 49th overall, moving down four spots from last year.

Globally, it wasn’t a good year for closing the gap between men and women.

“Gender parity is shifting into reverse this year for the first time since the World Economic Forum started measuring it,” writes Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman for the World Economic Forum.

According to the report, “out of the 142 countries covered by the Index both this year and last year, 82 countries have increased their overall gender gap score compared to last year, while 60 have seen it decrease.”

At the current rate which the gender pay gap is closing, for example, it will take 217 years for women to earn the same as men globally.

Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for Apple and Android.