Country Analysis of Gender Equality

Global Rankings of Gender Equality (GRGE)

How many times do each of the shaded countries appear on the top fourteen countries on ten leading global rankings of gender equality? Hover over a country to see the count. Notably, Sweden appears on all ten global rankings.

See the top fourteen countries for each ranking provider and descriptions of the criteria below.

How are the leading global rankings of gender equality doing on GLI and WIL?

The figure below presents a combined list of the top ten countries from ten leading providers of global rankings of gender equality (GRGE), plus the remaining countries with GLEF allocations. The table is ordered by how many times a country appears on GRGE top ten lists. Seven of the GRGE ranking mechanisms are based on economy-wide scores. These generally encompass scores around economic empowerment, primarily the female labor force participation rate (FLFPR), political representation, education, and safety. Two of the rankings are centered on women in the workforce. These criteria also include FLFPR, as well as WIL stats, pay equity, and workplace laws and regulations. The Equileap index ranks the top countries derived from company scores on 19 corporate gender equality metrics applied to a developed country dataset of 3,700 companies.

Country analysis: Top Gender Rankings, Equity Market Size, GLI, and WIL (as of Q2 2021)

Sources: Numerous. Contact us for details.

GRGE countries and public sector GLI

How are the top GRGE countries faring in terms of where gender lens equity and fixed income is developing? The U.S. has the largest equity market in the world. It is also the biggest GLEF allocation, reflecting the depth of public equities investment opportunities. There is a disconnect between the GLEF investment opportunities in the U.S., reflective of the size of the market, as well as the U.S. gender lens fixed income presence, versus the absence of the U.S. on top ten GRGE lists. Data for the U.K. reveal a similar disconnect. It falls into only two GRGE top ten lists, while coming in fourth on GLEF allocations.

Japan and Gender Equality

As we have referenced previously, Japan presents a unique and often-discussed case on gender equality. In terms of public sector GLI, one of the first gender bonds was issued by a Chilean bank in Japanese yen. The demand was so strong that the amount was increased shortly after the initial issue. Currently Japan ranks sixth in gender bonds issued by currency. In addition, there are four Japan GLEFs available to individual investors, including one that launched in late 2020, with additional funds available to institutional investors. On the other hand, progress for women has lagged overall. Japan’s FLFPR now exceeds the OECD average, but political representation is notably low, and women’s representation at all levels of corporate management and leadership lags. Nonetheless, a market for gender lens investing continues. As we previously highlighted, in late 2020 Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) announced a US$2.9 billion allocation to a non-Japan gender lens equity portfolio. A decidedly mixed picture, but Japan cannot be ruled out on the watch list of where the first sovereign gender bond will be issued.

After the U.S., the next largest equity markets are China, Hong Kong, Japan, and India. With a group of GLEFs based on the Womenomics initiative, Japan’s GLEF allocation ranks sixth. China, Hong Kong, and India have minimal GLEF allocations, suggesting room for growth where gender equality progress occurs in these markets. Alas, as seen in the data for women on boards, these Asian countries – including Japan – lag significantly on WIL. The next largest equity markets are the U.K., France, and Canada, which are top five GLEF allocations. This suggests that, unlike in Asia, robust markets and higher levels of corporate WIL provide the right environment for gender lens equity investments. Gender lens fixed income (not shown in the table) has been developing primarily in gender bonds, with the highest number of issues in emerging markets, as discussed above. In looking at the top GRGE countries, Canada, Australia, Norway, and Sweden have strong allocations in DFI gender bonds by currency, and private financial institution gender bonds have been issued in Canada and Australia.

On the other hand, the Nordic countries rank high on overall equality, but with smaller equity markets, these do not capture a sizable measure of gender lens equity investing. Where are the other GLI opportunities for these high-ranking Nordic countries? The World Bank has issued gender bonds in Swedish Krona and Norwegian Krone, indicating a gender lens investor base and demand for the issues. In February 2021, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest – announced a commitment to voting against non-diverse boards. Might this be followed up with a sovereign investment in a gender lens portfolio? Or could one of the other Nordic countries demonstrate its high score on gender equality by being the first to issue a sovereign gender bond?

France Stands Out

To find the best matches between GRGE countries and public sector gender lens investing, we look to France, Canada, and Australia. France is on six GRGE top ten lists and is the second-highest GLEF country allocation. Thus there is some alignment between its GRGE scores and the presence of public sector gender lens investment opportunities.  Canada appears in four GRGE top ten lists and ranks third in GLEF allocation. Furthermore, it has a significant allocation of gender lens fixed income investments, as well as World Bank-issued gender bonds in its currency, indicating market interest and demand. Australia lands on five GRGE top ten lists, appears in the top five GLEF countries, ranks second in gender lens fixed income, and also has World Bank-issued gender bonds in its currency. Next up in terms of alignment between GRGE and GLEF are Germany and the Netherlands, which each show up on at least five GRGE top ten lists. With much room for growth, each also has a small but measurable GLEF allocation.

Top GRGE countries versus women in the workforce and corporate leadership

How do the top GRGE countries fare on the leading score of economic participation, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Gender Equality Rankings? Of the countries to appear on at least five of the top ten lists, only Sweden and Finland rank in the top 20 on the WEF’s economic participation score, while Norway ranks 20th. Despite its other strengths, France is not in the top 50 on economic participation. Do the GRGE top ten countries demonstrate stronger WIL? In the top GRGE ranks, Norway (44%) and France (43%) stand out on metrics for women on boards, followed by Sweden (38%). New Zealand boasts 42% women on boards – and ranks above many higher-up GRGE countries in economic participation – yet appears in only three of the top ten lists. The U.K., Italy, and Belgium score higher for women on boards than many with higher positions in the GRGE ranks. Switzerland, a top GRGE countries, lag behind in women on boards.

Global Rankings of Gender Equality (continued)

The top fourteen countries for each of these ten ranking systems are shown in the chart below. 

AberdeenThe EconomistEqual Measures 2030EquileapOECDPwCUNDPU.S. News and World ReportWorld BankWorld Economic Forum
[scores 100]
DenmarkSwedenSwedenSpainSpainNew ZealandNorwayNorwayCanada
[scores 100]
[scores 100]
[scores 100]
New Zealand
5GermanyPortugalFinlandUnited KingdomTaiwanIcelandNetherlandsSwitzerlandGermany
[scores 100]
[scores 100]
7AustraliaBelgiumNetherlandsSwedenSwitzerlandPortugalSingaporeNew ZealandIceland
[scores 100]
8NetherlandsNew ZealandSwitzerlandGermanyFrancePolandIcelandNetherlandsIreland
[scores 100]
[scores 100]
10CanadaSlovakiaIrelandSwitzerlandCosta RicaFinlandBelgiumGermanyLuxembourg
[scores 100]
11CzechiaSpainNew ZealandNetherlandsMoldovaBelgiumUnited Arab EmiratesBelgiumNetherlands
[scores 100]
12IcelandPolandSpainNew ZealandAustriaIrelandAustriaAustriaPortugal
[scores 100]
13BelgiumAustriaBelgiumCanadaPortugalHungaryItalyUnited KingdomSpain
[scores 100]
14HungaryCanadaAustraliaUnited StatesUnited KingdomUnited KingdomSpainIrelandSweden
[scores 100]
Costa Rica
Sources: Aberdeen, Economist, Equal Measures 2030, Equileap, OECD, PwC, UNDP, U.S. News and World Report, World Bank and World Economic Forum. Details below.

The Aberdeen Standard Investment Research Institute (ASIRI) Gender Equality Index scores and ranks 29 OECD countries across various gender equality metrics with a focus on macro fundamentals, policy and empowerment.

The Economist’s Glass Ceiling Index is an assessment of the environment for working women across 29 OECD countries. The index considers ten measures of gender gaps in education, government and the workplace.

Equal Measures 2030’s SDG Gender Index provides a quantitative indicator to governments to gauge well their laws and policies advance women’s rights and measure progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on gender equality. The index incorporates 56 indicators with three to five gender-related indicators each under 14 of the 17 SDGs. The index covers 144 countries.

Equileap’s Gender Equality Global Report & Ranking is based on evaluations of individual companies across 19 gender equality criteria. A country score is the average of all scored companies domiciled there. Countries are ranked according to level of gender balance and promotion opportunities. The 23 countries included in the dataset have 50 or more scored companies.

The Organization of Economic Development’s (OECD) Social Institution and Gender Index utilizes 25 variables to measure the level of discrimination and restrictions experienced in a country due to gender.

PwC’s Women in Work Index scores countries on relative labor force participation rate and unemployment rate as well as gender pay gap and female board representation.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index measures gender gaps in three areas of human development namely reproductive health, educational and political empowerment and labor market participation.

The U.S. News and World Report’s Best Countries for Women is a perception-based system derived from the survey responses of women on questions related to human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress and safety.

The World Bank Women, Business and the Law Index seeks to measure economic empowerment for women in 190 economies by analyzing the laws and regulations across 8 areas that impact women throughout their working lives.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index are culled from surveys and statistics from leading multinational organizations, indicate important progress in education, health, and economic participation.

This content is an excerpt from our Gender Lens Investing Q2 2021 Review published in August 2021.

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