5 Ways To Achieve National Gender Parity

Dianne DixonGuest blog post by business owner Dianne Dixon.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2011, four of the top five nations that have taken significant steps toward achieving gender parity are Nordic. They are: Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden; Ireland rounds out the quintet.

The report was based on five years of data from 135 countries; it measured gender gap ratios in the following major categories: 

  1. economic opportunity
  2. political empowerment
  3. educational attainment
  4. health
  5. survival

So what are the initiatives that have helped these nations make their way to the top of the gender parity ladder?

1. Both sexes have equal access to education

A country’s competitiveness is dependent upon its ability to capitalize on its human talent pool. Fully utilized human resources mean stronger and more innovative solutions which lead to sustainable economic growth.  In all five countries, educational attainment ratio was at least .99, meaning that as many women as men were schooled at all levels, including tertiary institutions, i.e. university and college. In all cases, there were more women than men enrolled at the tertiary level and in the case of Iceland, there were nearly twice as many. 

2. Women in the labor force

With more education comes more opportunities in work. So it’s no surprise that in these five countries women’s participation in the workforce as professionals and technical workers was on par with men. That means that in the areas of science, engineering, mathematical professionals and associates women were on par with men.

3. Supportive maternity leave policies

While a joyful event personally, maternity is usually seen as a major obstacle in a woman’s career.  Most countries acknowledge a woman’s right to have children but they don’t fully support the decision by providing women with adequate leave, childcare or even reintegration into the workforce.  These top five countries have created environments were maternity and career don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Maternity leave ranges from three to 16 months; mothers are paid 70% or more of their wages and have access to well established day care systems. If the mother is ready to reenter the workplace, she has access to post-maternity re-entry programs

4. Supportive paternity leave policies

 Paternity leave is not acknowledged in many countries but in these countries, the father has the opportunity to take leave before and after the child is born.  Each country’s regulations vary but men can take a minimum of 10 days leave and receive at least 70% of their wages.

5. Strong legislation fighting gender disparity

Everyone is well aware of the corporate glass ceiling and statistics show that women are still working to penetrate the upper echelons of the corporate architecture.  While women’s ability to rise to positions of enterprise leadership is still not completely on par with men, in these five countries, they are highest, average 5.5 on a scale of 1 to 7. Norway has taken things a bit further; in 2008, they required that women comprise 40% of the boards of publicly listed companies.

There are many other reasons why these nations are at the top of the list; their policies really create an environment where women’s needs are supported. While much has been accomplished, more still needs to happen.

Looking at all of this data and seeing the potential women can have if they are given the opportunity there is one thought that stands out: anyone can come up with excuses why implementing changes that benefit women won’t be feasible or will take more time/resources than are available. But for those who truly believe that gender parity creates a better nation if not world, they will find the ways and means.

Dianne Dixon is a business owner, investor, and blogger who writes on a variety of subjects including health and wellness, personal development, career & more!

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