Ahead of the World Economic Forum on Latin America, taking place this week in Lima, Peru, find below a breakdown of how the region is faring in terms of gender equality. The findings are based on the latest Global Gender Gap Report, which measures to what extent women are held back by factors relating to economics, politics, education and health.

Overall, the Latin America and Caribbean region scored 69% for gender parity in 2012 (100% represents perfect equality between the sexes). This compares with 59% in the Middle East and North Africa.

Nicaragua (9th) leads the way and is the only country from the region to hold a place in the top 10 of the global gender gap rankings (out of 135 countries). This is a result of how well it scored on the political empowerment sub-index, where it comes in fifth; 40% of parliamentarians are women, 46% of ministers are women, and, over the last 50 years, there was a female head of state for seven of them, which puts Nicaragua in the top 20 on that particular variable. Nicaragua is also performing well on the educational sub-index, holding the 23rd position. Over the last seven years, Nicaragua has been one of the best climbers on the Global Gender Gap Index of 111 countries that have been included in the report since 2006.

Cuba (19th) moved up one place in 2012, with a high proportion of women among professional and technical workers (60%). It is also the country with the highest percentage of women parliamentarians among the 135 countries covered by the report.

Barbados (27th) moved up six places in the ranking thanks to an increase in women holding ministerial positions. Barbados is one of the three countries from the region (along with Brazil and the Bahamas) that have closed the gender gap in both the education attainment and health and survival sub-indexes. Barbados is the best performer on literacy rates and holds the region’s highest position in the wage equality survey.

Costa Rica (29th) has a strong ranking mainly due to its score on the political empowerment sub-index, with 39% of parliamentarians being female. Costa Rica is also one of the four countries from the region that have closed the educational gender gap. On the other hand, the country ranked 105th on the labour force participation indicator.

Bolivia (30th) shot up 32 positions in 2012, the greatest increase for countries in the region. This move is predominantly due to a significant increase in the percentage of women in ministerial positions (from 20% to 45%). Bolivia’s performance over the last seven years makes it the second best climber of the 111 countries that have been included in the report since 2006.

Download the full Global Gender Gap Report 2012.

Author: Yasmina Bekhouche is a Project Manager on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Team. 

Image: A group of doctors who have recently graduated from the Latin American Medical College in Havana. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan