No one will be shocked to hear that the Nordic countries have the smallest gender gap, but maybe the position of the U.S. in a worldwide ranking will surprise you.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Every year since 2006 the World Economic Forum has released a detailed country-by-country measurement of the gender gap around the world, and generally the top slot comes as no surprise. Iceland has earned the top position on the list of countries with the smallest gender gap for five years running and it comes in number one one in the latest “Global Gender Gap Index” as well.

The other top-performing countries in the most recent edition of the report won’t come as much of a shock either: Finland, Norway and Sweden ranked right behind. What may be more surprising (though hardly a jaw dropper) is the continuing poor performance of the U.S on some measures. Fast Company sums it up:

The U.S. ranks overall 23rd in the world (compared to 22nd last year) in gender equality, but there are large differences across the categories measured. For example, the U.S. ties for number 1 in “educational attainment” with a number of countries, and has basically closed the gender gap in health as well (technically it is number 33, but it is just behind 32 countries that tie for No. 1).

In political empowerment, however, the U.S. is ranked a woeful 63rd out of a total of 136 countries listed, and in economic participation it is only ranked sixth–a sad figure considering the position of the U.S. as a leading world economy (though it is improved from No. 8 last year). The United States’s maternity leave laws are pretty terrible compared to many other developed and even emerging market countries.

Curious how other country’s ranked? Check out the complete report or explore the findings using the visualization below. The Harvard Business Review has also mined the report for noteworthy trends as well.

Did anything contained in the report surprise you?

Jessica Stillman (@entrylevelrebel) is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for, contributes regularly to Forbes and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others.