We’d like to live in a world of gender quality, but we don’t. The world is unequal, and that means workplaces are unequal, too. The application of labor laws varies dramatically from one place to another, as do the conditions offered to women in those places. Some countries have huge gender pay gaps between men and women who do effectively the same jobs, whereas others are closer to parity. Knowing where those countries are and what opportunities they offer you could be the key to making a success of your career.
There are few things more frustrating for a woman than being forced to watch a male colleague either pass you by for promotion or claim a higher salary than you when you know in your heart that you’re doing a better job than they are. If it’s happened to you, you have two choices. You can stay where you are and look forward to more of the same, or you can do something about it by seeking employment elsewhere. That might involve moving to another country – and if it does, these are the countries you may wish to consider.
The United Kingdom
One expects the UK to be fairly close to the top of the list when it comes to equal opportunities, and so it proves to be. There’s been an Equal Pay Act in force in the UK since 1970, and an increasing trend for quotas to be enforced at the boardroom level regarding female representation in upper management positions. It isn’t perfect – and it’s not quite at the top of the list – but as a friendly English-speaking country with great employment opportunities, it’s a great place to work.
We’re using something called the Women In Work Index to help us with our choices for this article, and the Netherlands scores very highly on the categories that the index takes into account. Dutch women enjoy one of the smallest gender pay gaps globally and live in one of the top ten countries worldwide for maternity pay leave packages. A new mother in the Netherlands can expect sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave. Just over fifteen percent of female workers in the Netherlands work in a leadership position, which means they’re in direct command of two or more employees beneath them. While that might sound low, it’s actually more than twice as high as the equivalent figure in Germany, which is often held up as a model of egalitarianism.
Norway is often said to be the happiest place in the world, so the people and the country’s government must be doing something right. From a woman’s point of view, they most certainly are. Norway has definitely the smallest gender pay gap on the planet, and women hold an impressive 24.8% of all executive or CEO positions in the country. That figure has been increasing steadily with each passing year and shows no sign of slowing down. The only downside is maternity leave. You lose 6% of your income from the moment your maternity leave begins, and your guaranteed package ends altogether after thirteen weeks. That’s only the government-mandated offering, though – many companies voluntarily offer far better benefits. Throw in the fact that the Scandinavian way of life is held up as an example for the rest of the world to follow. You’re looking for a wonderful place to grow your career.
You’ve probably noticed there’s a European theme to this list, and that’s not an accident. The European Union is criticized for many things – especially in the United Kingdom – but the progress it’s made in enforcing pro-equality laws on its member states is admirable. Many nations have benefited from these EU-driven mandates, and Croatia is one of them. Women in Croatia earn an average of 96.6% of what their male counterparts do, which is on the verge of becoming genuine parity. Maternity leave is up there with the best of the world, offering a standard package of a full thirty weeks. If there’s a downside here, it’s the lack of women in leadership roles. That figure comes in at a mere 11.95%, which is disappointing. Croatia is working on the problem, but it will likely be a few years before that number becomes respectable. Still, if you’re among that percentage, you’ll live a comfortable life in a beautiful country.
We’d be very surprised if you saw this coming. According to the Women in Work Index, the best place in the world for women to work is Bulgaria. An impressive 22% of all the women employed in Bulgaria hold leadership roles, which leaves almost every other country on the list trailing in its distant wake. If maternity packages matter to you, you’ll be interested (and hopefully pleased) to know that Bulgarian companies are required to pay new mothers for a full year. That’s the longest term in the world by a comfortable distance. It would be a clean sweep across the board for Bulgaria if it weren’t for the fact that it lags behind our other four choices in the gender pay gap stakes, which is something you’d have to bear in mind unless you were heading there with a specific guaranteed job and salary.
Our American readers are probably wondering where their home country appears on the index. The answer doesn’t make for happy reading. According to the metrics used by the Women in Work Index, it’s down to 27th place. If you’re a female American worker and feel like you might be getting a raw deal, you probably are. That’s probably not a surprise to anyone who’s come up against discrimination in the workplace. You might have to move to Europe if you want to get a fair reward for your efforts at work – but if you’re young and hungry enough to make such a move, why not grab the opportunity with both hands?
Featured Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels