Where in Europe can a woman’s career progress better?

If you are a woman looking for the best place for your career to prosper, at least equally to your male colleagues, you may consider moving to Iceland.

At the beginning of March, the UK company Claims.co.uk compiled a list of the best European countries for women’s career progression. Not surprisingly, five Nordic nations occupy the top positions: Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Denmark scores the worst among them, still in 9th place in the 46-country list.

The study relies on WEF data and weights elements such as female income, women in parliament, and career opportunities offered to female professionals. This view looks beyond salaries to uncover the most advanced or progressive nations, based on a scale that reaches 100 when all the factors are considered to fulfilled.

According to the study, in most cases, a woman looking for the best place to receive an equal opportunity to thrive in her professional career will need to pack warm clothes. Albania aside, which has a score of 62.93 and reaches the 5th position, just after Sweden with a score of 65.16, Mediterranean countries are much lower on the list. France occupies place 17 (49.81), Spain 19 (with 48.26), Malta 32 (32.69) and Italy 33 (30.66). At the very bottom of the list, Turkey scores 17.55. It is preceded by Azerbaijan (19.48), Hungary (19.99) and Poland (20.16).

The best examples

With a female population of 190.000, Iceland tops many lists regarding equal opportunities, gender equality, cultural development and social advancement. There, the median annual income for women is around 40.500 euro; 47,6% of members of parliament are female. The climb to the top did not happen overnight, though. In fact, the process of advancement that brought the country to reach 89.49 points, started at least half a century ago. And after years of progress, Iceland continues to be seen as a model. In the last 50 years, it has been guided by some female PMs, including the current PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir. And in 1980, elected the world’s first woman president – Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who served the country for 16 years.

Finland, in second place with 81.72 points, also has (and had) a strong female representation in leadership positions. Women occupy 45,5% of the Finnish parliament, and in the last half-century, the government has been guided by three female prime ministers and one president, Tarja Halonen, who served for 12 consecutive years. Looking at the economy, women’s employment rate (74,1%) is higher than men’s, even though only 13% of companies see women in top managerial positions.

The other Scandinavian countries, unsurprisingly, tell similar success stories – performing better in some realms and less in others. What stands out in the recent study, though, is Albania.

Usually, the nation does not appear next to examples set by the Nordics. Yet it occupies the 5th position on the Claim.co.uk’s list of the best countries for women’s careers. With a score of 62.93, it leads European countries in terms of wage equality despite a median income of 10.000 € per year. With an average of 35,7% female presence in the parliament and 43,8% holding ministerial positions, Albanese women’s participation in the labour market reaches 43,1%, female STEM graduates are 46,7% and relatively high female ownership in firms (16,9%).

Specific numbers and ranking aside, the study highlights what works and where things need to be improved to boost gender equality within countries and within the continent. Commenting on the research, they add from Claim.uk.co: “While celebrating their progress, it prompts reflection on persistent global challenges faced by women, including inequality, harassment, and pay gaps. Looking ahead, the next decade is optimistic, with the momentum from Scandinavia hopefully inspiring a global shift towards inclusive, diverse workplaces.”

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