Latvia climbs into Europe’s top ten and Iceland continues at number one in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2013 report, published today.

The report ranks 136 countries on their ability to close the gender gap – making sure women are not held back – in four key areas: health and survival, education, politics and economic equality.

Europe’s progress towards eliminating its gender gap is polarized, with countries from Northern and Western Europe in stark contrast to those from the South and East. Overall, Spain comes in 30th, having closed 72% of its gender gap, France ranks 45th (70% closed) while Italy ranks 71st.

Iceland (1 out of 136) holds the top spot for the fifth consecutive year, continuing to boast the narrowest gender gap in the world. Iceland’s overall score moves up due to improvements in economic participation and opportunity, as well as political empowerment.

Finland (2) continues to hold the second position despite slight losses in its overall score due to a decrease in economic opportunity and participation.

Norway (3) follows next, with a light increase in its overall score. Norway has just appointed a female prime minister, Erna Solberg, and is also one of the top 10 countries for the number of years during which it has had a female head of state.

Sweden (4) continues to hold the fourth position. Although no country has yet achieved gender equality, all of the Nordic countries, with the exception of Denmark, have closed over 80% of the gender gap. On the whole, these economies have made it possible for parents to combine work and family, resulting in more women in the workforce, shared childcare and a better work-life balance for both women and men.

Ireland (6) slipped one place this year due to losses in economic participation and opportunity, though it remains the highest European country outside the group of Nordic economies.

Denmark (8) lost one place in the overall ranking this year despite an improvement in political empowerment.

Switzerland (9) moved up one spot due to increases in women’s salaries.

Belgium (11) gains one place compared to last year thanks to improvements in economic participation and opportunity.

Latvia (12) climbs three places from last year. It holds the best position from the region for the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers.

Netherlands (13) falls two places this year, affected by a drop in the percentage of women in parliament, from 41% to 39%.

Explore our interactive map below, and find out which countries are ahead on gender equality.

Image: A woman looks at the view of Breidamerkurjokull’s Vatnajokull glacier, about 380 km (236 miles) from Reykjavik, Iceland, May 31, 2008. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins