Worst education system in South America

New report finds Latin America's best and worst countries for gender

Women's rightsA woman holds a sign that reads "Enough with violence against women" during a march for International Women's Day in Paraguay. Photo: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

Electing a female president isn’t enough to balance out systemic gender inequality in politics and the workplace across Latin America, according to a new study on global gender inequality.

The World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Report, released Tuesday, ranked 142 countries around the world based on their achievements toward gender parity. Unsurprisingly, at least for most people who pay attention to women’s rights in the region, Latin America did little to distinguish itself — with one notable exception.

The report’s conclusions were based on four major categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. These broad sectors included more specific indicators like the percentage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates, percentage of women employed in formal and informal sectors, businesses with women as top managers, access to contraception, access to land ownership, length of maternity leave and even legal parental authority within marriage and after divorce.

The top countries in the world, as might be expected, were mostly concentrated in Europe, with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark taking the top five spots. Below that, things were a bit more interesting, with Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ireland, the Philippines and Belgium rounding out the top 10.

Also unsurprising were the countries with the poorest scores on the index. The bottom five — Mali, Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen — were all countries with deeply restrictive laws and norms regulating gender relations, and included several nations that are experiencing severe internal conflicts.

Latin American report card: The good and the average

Nicaragua’s high ranking may come as a surprise to many women’s rights activists, as the country suffers from rising rates of femicide and violence against women. However, the country earned top marks for women’s political empowerment, with more women than men holding ministerial-level positions in the government.

The next Latin American country to make the list was Ecuador, coming in at 21st, just after the United States. Ecuador had near-equality on educational and health indicators, and its .71 ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions was one of the best in the region (though, of course, still well below equal). When it came to labor force participation, though, the small Andean country didn’t fare so well — only 58 percent of women are connected to the country’s workforce, compared to 85 percent of men.

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