In 2021, Switzerland jumped from 26th to 10th (2020) in the WEF gender equality ranking.
In 2021, Switzerland scored 0.798 overall – a score of 1.000 represents parity – up from 0.7000 in 2020.
Top scoring Iceland came in at 0.892. Other nations in the top 10 included Finland (0.861), Norway (0.849), New Zealand (0.840), Sweden (0.823), Namibia (0.809), Rwanda (0.805), Lithuania (0.804) and Ireland (0.800).
Overall scores break down into the four categories of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.
Switzerland scores particularly well in educational attainment (0.992) and health and survival (0.964), but less well on economic participation and opportunity (0.743) and political empowerment (0.494).
Economic participation and opportunity
Switzerland’s solid score for economic participation and opportunity (0.743)) is dragged down by the relatively low number of women in high paid jobs (0.706). One driver of this is relatively low female attainment in STEM fields, engineering, manufacturing and construction and information communications and technology. These are generally well-paid fields where demand exceeds supply and pay gets pushed up. This is especially true in the technology sector.
Male attainment is 3.3 times higher than female in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), 4.9 times higher in engineering, manufacturing and construction, and 8.5 times higher in information communications and technology.
Why male attainment in these fields is higher is a complex question. But it is an imbalance that shows up early in the subjects school children in Switzerland choose. Boys are over three times more likely to graduate from high school with a specialisation in mathematics and physics, a ratio that has remained constant since 2012. Broadly, these ratios are flipped for languages, philosophy, pedagogy, psychology and visual arts, where attainment by girls is around 3 times higher than that of boys. School subject choices with the greatest gender balance are biology, chemistry, economics and law.
The ranking marks Switzerland down for the relatively low ratio of women to men working in senior roles such as legislators, senior officials and managers. There are 2 men for every 1 woman in such roles in Switzerland.
However, women in Switzerland are well represented in roles where workers increase the existing stock of knowledge, apply scientific or artistic concepts and theories or perform technical tasks that require advanced knowledge and skill. Switzerland scores 0.889 on this measure.
On this measure Switzerland gets a near perfect score of 0.992.
However, this score obscures key details. Women in Switzerland are more likely than men to graduate from high school and university, data that suggests a gender imbalance in favour of women – 26% of young women compared to 18% of young men qualify for university in Switzerland. At the same time, men have much higher levels of attainment in certain academic fields, such as technology.
Health and survival
This element is measured by the sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy. The ranking shows almost no gender imbalance in Switzerland on this measure, awarding Switzerland an overall score of 0.964. Other data suggests healthy life expectancy swings slightly in favour of women. Swiss women can expect 71.7 years in good health whereas their male counterparts can expect 70.7, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
This measure is Switzerland’s weak point. It scores 0.474 overall.
However, one small adjustment to this measure would shift Switzerland into 2nd place overall. Switzerland’s relatively low score on political empowerment largely reflects the technical design of the ranking. Unlike most elements of the overall calculation, one component of political empowerment is historical. It looks back 50 years at the number of female presidents.
Over the last 50 years Switzerland has only had 8 female presidents. However, if the time frame was shortened to 15 years, a period that better reflects how Switzerland is operating now, the ratio is 7 women to 8 men. Cutting the timeframe to 15 years would bump Switzerland’s political empowerment score up from 0.494 to 0,797, and its overall score to 0.874, placing Switzerland just behind Iceland (0.892) in the overall ranking.
WEF ranking (in English)