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Global Gender Gap Report 2012: The Best And Worst Countries For Women

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Gender equality has been more of a national focus than usual in the United States over the past few months, thanks to the 2012 presidential election. Republican nominee Mitt Romney recently discussed the "binders full of women" that he tried to hire when he was governor of Massachusetts, and President Barack Obama touched upon the importance of "protecting women's rights" around the world during the third and final presidential debate Monday.

But how does the United States stack up against other countries when it comes to said gender equality? According to the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, released on October 23rd by the World Economic Forum, we're only 22nd best.

The report ranks 135 countries (which collectively contain over 90 percent of the world's population) based on 14 indicators used to measure the size of a nation's gender gap in four key areas:
1. Economic participation and opportunity, which includes female labor force participation, wage equality and the percentage of women in high-ranking jobs.
2. Educational attainment, which looks at female literacy and how frequently women are enrolled in higher education.
3. Health and survival, which is measured by comparing female and male life expectancy and mortality rates.
4. Political empowerment, which examines the number of women holding political office as well as the number of female heads of state over the last 50 years.

The report gives each country a score between 0 (total inequality) and 1 (total equality) for each of the 14 indicators, then averages these scores to determine a nation's final score and thus, its ranking.

Last year, the United States ranked 17th, just behind the United Kingdom and just ahead of Canada, with a score of .7412. This year, amid a whole lot of talk about women's rights and gender equality, the U.S. is ranked 22nd with a score of .7373 (its lowest since 2009).

The U.S. did manage to close the economic gender gap further even as its other scores slipped, along with fellow major economic powers, Japan and Germany. Unsurprisingly, several Western European nations (including several Scandinavian nations, which have a well-documented history of valuing social welfare and gender equality) continue to rank at the top of the World Economic Forum's index.

The one thing these rankings make clear is that there is still a whole lot of work to be done when it comes to creating policies that will give men and women equal opportunities for living economically successful, healthy and politically engaged lives.

LOOK: The 25 Best And 25 Worst Countries For Gender Equality

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