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Global Gender Gap 2010

South African gospel singers smile during a rally to commemorate Women's Day (file photo)

The advancement of women is an important economic, business and societal issue that has a significant impact on the growth of nations.

The World Economic Forum, or WEF, a non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, recognizes that the advancement of women is an important economic, business and societal issue that has a significant impact on the growth of nations, and is therefore a predictor of a country's potential. That is why, for the past 5 years, the WEF has published the Global Gender Gap Report.

The report assesses 134 countries on how well they divide resources and opportunities among male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in the areas of economic participation, education, political empowerment and health.

According to the newly released 2010 report, Iceland ranks the highest in closing the gender gap, having closed it about 83 percent. At the bottom of the index sits Yemen, which has closed only some 46 percent of its gender gap. However, it is important to note that a number of low-ranking countries, such as Saudi Arabia, for example, are making some of the fastest progress on the index.

Of the 114 countries evaluated on the original report 5 years ago, 86 percent have narrowed their gender gaps, while 14 percent are regressing, said the World Economic Forum's Director and Head of Constituents, Saadia Zahidi.

"Over 93 percent of the global gender gap on education has been closed," said Ms. Zahidi. "Over 96 percent of the global gender gap on health has been closed. On the other hand, however, only about 60 percent of the economic participation gap has been closed, and only about 18 percent of the gap on political empowerment," she said. Ms. Zahidi noted "if women are now starting to be as healthy and as educated as men, it makes sense to now be ensuring that they are a part of the economy, and a part of the decision-making processes."

"The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report shows a strong correlation between gender equality and a country’s prosperity and economic competitiveness," says U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. "It should be an indispensable reference for anyone who wants to advance economic, social and political progress worldwide or understand one of the critical reasons why some countries progress and others do not."