Iceland, Nordics top world gender equality list

Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:11pm EDT
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By Burton Frierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iceland and three other Nordic countries lead the world in gender equality, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The United States, which prides itself on civil rights progress during the past half century, fell four spots from last year to stand at 31st place behind Lithuania and ahead of Namibia, according to the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit group based in Switzerland.

The report ranked countries according to how much they reduced gender disparities based on economic participation, education, health and political empowerment while attempting to strip out the effects of a nation's overall wealth.

Iceland, which has been rocked by financial crisis, rose from fourth place overall a year ago to top the list and was followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. New Zealand came in fifth.

Commenting on the low U.S. position, Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, said at the launch of the report in New York: "In many ways we've been a model ... but we also have a ways to travel."

"Obviously I think every country wants to do better. It's worth pointing out that no country has equality between men and women so we have a long road to go no matter where we live."

Pulling down the United States was its poor performance in political empowerment, where it ranked a lowly 61.

The Nordic countries excelled in this area, with Iceland again taking top honors.   Continued...