Nicaragua is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to make the top 10 global ranking for gender equality. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2013 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.

1. Nicaragua (10 out of 136) continues to hold the top spot in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the only country from the region to hold a place in the top 10 global ranking. Nicaragua ranks fifth overall for political empowerment and holds the second position out of all lower-middle income countries.

2. Cuba (15) moves up four places from last year in the overall ranking, mainly thanks to an increase in the number of women in parliament. Cuba is among the top 20 countries (at 17th) in the world for the number of professional and technical female workers, and has the highest proportion of women in parliament at 49%. Cuba is also the best performer in the overall ranking of all upper-middle income countries.

3. Ecuador (25) gains eight places, boosted by narrowing gaps in labour force participation, wage equality for similar work, and the number of female professional and technical workers and women in parliament.

4. Bolivia (27) climbs three places in the ranking due to improvements in all areas of economic participation and opportunity. Bolivia is the best performing country from the region for women’s income and is also the second best country from the region for the percentage of women in ministerial positions, at 45%.

5. Barbados (29) Barbados falls two places this year, despite an increase in the percentage of women in parliament (from 10% to 17%). Barbados is one of three countries from the region which has fully closed gender gaps in educational attainment, and in health and survival.

6. Costa Rica (31) slips to the 31st position mostly due to losses in wage equality for similar work, and for the number of female professional and technical workers. However, Costa Rica has closed its educational gender gap.

7. Argentina (34) slips down the rank in 2013, even though it has a female president and ranks 13th overall for the number of years in its history with a woman at the helm. The fall is due to a decrease in women in the workforce, and for lower pay for women doing similar work to men.

8. Colombia (35) shows the biggest climb of this year, having climbed up 28 places. The data shows very significant improvements in the percentage of female legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as professional and technical workers.

9. Trinidad and Tobago (36) climbs seven places from last year, due to the relative decrease of other countries such as Malawi, the Bahamas, Namibia, Guyana and Sri Lanka.

10. Panama (37) gains three spots in the ranking, thanks to better performance in the areas of economic participation and education.

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


Image: A girl jumps into the sea in The Corn Islands, Nicaragua, June 16,2010. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas