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The Best European Countries for Women to Work

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Ahead of International Women’s Day, the team at Reboot Online were curious to find out which countries are best for women to work in around Europe. To find out once and for all, we conducted our own study.

The research

By evaluating a variety of factors that contribute to a women’s success in the workplace, we created our very own points-based index to determine which European countries offer the best prospects for female professionals.

Aspects considered in the Women in Work Index were:

🔸 Economic opportunity

🔸 Women in leadership roles

🔸 Maternity leave packages

There were 100 points up for grabs for each factor considered, with the maximum score being out of 300 overall.

The results

(The full results can be found at the bottom of the page – click here to jump)


CONTENTS:

A BREAKDOWN OF THE RESULTS

The 10 ‘best’ countries in Europe for women to work

 

1. Bulgaria – 236.6 points

Bulgaria is the best European country for women to work, with a combined total of 236.6 points out of a possible 300 in our Women in Work Index.

It is unsurprising that Bulgarian women thrive in the workplace after our analysis found that Bulgaria has one of Europe’s best maternity packages. The country allows mothers to take a minimum of 58.6 weeks off (410 days) – the longest minimum maternity leave in the world – and pays 90% of their full salary during leave. As a result, the country scores a perfect score of 100 out of 100 in our index.

Bulgaria comes in third place for women in leadership, as they are awarded 90 points in our index – 10 points less than Norway in first place. According to our analysis, 22.1% of women hold leadership roles in the country – the fourth highest of all countries studied.

However, Bulgaria finished mid-table for economic opportunity (46.6 points), which predominantly down to being awarded a score of 0.727 in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings.

 

2. Croatia – 229.8 points

In second and scoring just 6.7 points less than Bulgaria is Croatia, with a combined total of 229.9 points.

Similarly to Bulgaria, Croatia also offers one of the best maternity leave packages in Europe, resulting in 96.6 points in our index. Croatians parents can expect their full-rate salary for the weeks they take maternity leave, as well as having one of the longest minimum periods for maternity leave (30 weeks, or 210 days).

It seems that the country is also on the right track with the gender pay gap, as it registered the second-highest points for economic opportunity when taking into account wage equality and estimated income (96.6 points), losing out only to Italy who scored an impressive 100 points.

However, the 36.6 points they received for women in leadership shows that there is still work to be done after our research shows that an average of 11.95% of Croatian women hold leadership roles.

 

3. Estonia – 220 points

Estonia follows behind with a score of 220 in our study, suggesting they are the third best country in Europe for women to work.

When it comes to maternity packages and the number of women in leadership roles, Estonia is among the top 10 in Europe. With a full paid maternity package and 18.5% of women holding leadership roles in the country – the seventh highest of all countries studied – we have awarded the country a respectable 80 points for both aspects.

With a score of 0.751 in the Global Gender Pay Gap 2020 rankings, Estonia also scores fairly highly for economic opportunities too in our index, with a score of 60 points.

 

4=. Norway – 209.9 points

Norway comes in fourth place in our index, scoring an impressive 209.9 points.

Bearing in mind Norway is the most gender-equal country in the world, it should come as no surprise that Norway is the best European country for offering leadership roles to women. In fact, according to analysis, a quarter of CEO or Executive roles in the country are held by women (24.8%).

When it comes to economic opportunities, Norwegian women also fare well, scoring 0.8442 in the Gender Pay Gap Index rankings in 2020. As a result, we have awarded the Scandinavian country 83.3 points in our very own index, which is sixth place.

However, despite being one of the most egalitarian countries in Europe, Norway has one of the worst maternity packages for mothers. They offer mothers 94% of their full salary during their maternity leave, but the country offers just 13 weeks of paid leave (19 days), which is among the worst in the world. As a result, they have been awarded a mediocre score of 26.6 points out of a possible 100.

 

4=. Slovakia – 209.9 points

In joint fourth with Norway is Slovakia, also scoring 209.9 points in our study.

The central European country ranks third and fifth for their maternity packages and women in leadership roles. Offering three-quarters of a mother’s wage whilst on maternity leave and 19.75% of Slovakian women holding Executive or CEO roles, the country has been awarded 93.3 and 83.3 points respectively.

However, the country doesn’t do so well when it comes to the gender pay gap. Our research can reveal that the country is among the bottom 10 European countries in the Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings, scoring 0.718. As a result, our index has awarded Slovakia just 33.3 points.

 

5. The Netherlands – 206.5 points

Following closely behind in fifth is The Netherlands, 3.4 points less than Norway and Slovakia, with a score of 206.5 in our Women in Work Index.

Dutch women have one of the best gender equality gaps when it comes to money, scoring an impressive 93.3 points when taking into account wage equality and estimated income and coming in third.

The Netherlands comes just shy of the top 10 for maternity leave packages, resulting in a score of 56.5 points. This is because, even though the country offers 100% full-paid leave for parents, they offer just 16 weeks of minimum maternity leave (112 days), which is 43.6 weeks less than Bulgaria in first place.

Holland scores 56.6 points for leadership roles too, ranking in 13th out of the 30 European countries studied. Our analysis found that 15.5% of Dutch women work in positions of leadership, which is better than neighbouring countries Belgium (10.55%) and Germany (6.75%).

 

6. Slovenia – 199.9 points

Falling just below 200 is Slovenia, with a score of 199.9 points in our study.

According to our research, Slovenian women can expect fair economic job opportunities, resulting in 80 points and ranking in seventh in our Women in Work Index. Slovenia also ranks in eighth for the number of women working in leadership roles, with 17.3% of women holding CEO or Executive level.

Despite offering mothers their full-rate salary for the weeks they take maternity leave; Slovenia allows only 15 weeks paid leave – 105 days. As a result, the country sits in the middle of the list for maternity packages, ranking in 16th place and scores 46.6 points.

 

7. Romania – 196.6 points

The seventh best place for women to work in Europe is Romania, with a score of 196.6 points in our index.

According to our analysis, 23.55% of women in Romania hold leadership roles, ranking in second place out of the 30 European countries studied and scoring an impressive score of 96.6 in our index. Neighbouring Bulgaria also ranks among the top five for leadership, suggesting Eastern European countries are among the best for promoting women to CEO or Executive roles.

However, when it comes to economic opportunities and maternity packages, Romanian women sit slap bang in the middle of the European countries studied (15th), scoring 50 points respectively.

 

8. Italy – 179.9 points

Following behind in eighth is Italy with 179.9 points – 16.7 points less than Romania.

We found that Italian women have the best economic opportunities of all 30 European countries studied, taking into account wage equality for similar work and estimated income. As a result, Italy was awarded 100 points in our index and comes in first place.

Italy also ranks among the top 10 for maternity packages (8th), with the country offering women 80% pay whilst on leave and one of the longest minimum maternity leaves in the world (21.7 weeks, or 151 days), resulting in a score of 73.3 points in our index.

However, when it comes to gender equality, Italy needs to do more. Our research found that just 6.55% of women hold a position of authority in Italy – the third lowest of all 30 countries we studied.

 

9. Latvia – 166.6 points

In ninth place is Latvia, scoring 166.6 points in our Women in Work Index.

Latvia has the fifth best economic opportunities for women and was awarded a score of 0.785 in the Global Gender Pay Gap Index 2020 rankings, resulting in an impressive score of 86.6 points.

However, when it comes to women in leadership and maternity packages, Latvia could do better. With 14.45% of women classed as a CEO or an Executive, and the country paying mothers 80% of their wage for just 16 weeks (112 days), we have awarded the country with 50 points for leadership (15th) and 30 points for their maternity benefits (21st).

 

10. Sweden – 166.5 points

Rounding off the top 10 best places to be a woman and work in Europe is Sweden – the second Scandinavian country in the top 10 – scoring 166.5 points in our index.

The country fares best when it comes to leadership after our research found that 18.45% of Swedish women are in positions of power (CEO or Executive), thus scoring 76.6 points and ranking in seventh place. Sweden also ranks among the top 10 for economic opportunities, resulting in a score of 73.3 and ranking in eighth.

However, their maternity packages are a lot to be desired. Sweden pays 77% of a mother’s full wage whilst on maternity leave, which is often just 12.9 weeks (90.3 days).

 

The 10 ‘worst’ European countries for women to work

Now let’s take a look at the other end of the results. Which country offers the least opportunities for women at work?

 

1. Turkey – 39.9 points

At the bottom of our Women in Work Index is Turkey, with a mediocre score of 39.9. To put that into perspective, that’s a whopping 196.7 less than Bulgaria in first place!

When it comes to wage equality and estimated income compared to men, Turkey is among the worst in Europe. In the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings, Turkey has the lowest score of all 30 countries (0.635), resulting in a score of just 6.6 points (28th place) for economic opportunities.

Turkish women also face discrimination when it comes to leadership and maternity too, as just 7.15% of women found to be in leadership roles and women are paid 66% of their full wage whilst on maternity leave for 16 weeks (112 days). As a result, we have scored Turkey 13.3 points for leadership and 20 points for their maternity package, and rank in 26th and 23rd place respectively.

 

2. Portugal – 69.9 points

Despite scoring 30 more points than Turkey, Portugal is also among the bottom 10 countries in our index.

Portugal is the worst when it comes to maternity leave, coming in 30th place in our study. Despite Portuguese women getting full paid leave, they have the shortest minimum maternity leave period in the world – just six weeks (42 days!).  

Portugal fares slightly better when it comes to leadership and economic opportunities for women in the workplace, with 10.8% of women in positions of power in the workplace (CEO or Executive level) and an average mid-table score when it comes to wage equality and estimated income. Therefore, we have awarded Portugal with 26 points (22nd) and 43 points (17th), respectively.

 

3. Austria – 72 points

The country with the third least opportunities for women is Austria, scoring just 73.2 points in our Women in Work Index.

When compared to the 30 other European countries in our study, it’s clear that Austrian women are discriminated against when it comes to leadership roles. Our research can reveal that women in the country are employed in just 5.35% of CEO or Executive roles. As a result, we have awarded Austria with a mediocre 3.3 points and rank in 29th place.

The country also scored 13.3 points and rank in 26th place for the number of economic opportunities for women. However, Austria falls shy of the top 10 for maternity packages, after our research found that they offer mothers their full-rate salary for the weeks that they take maternity leave – they are one of 11 that offer this.    

 

4. Luxembourg – 80 points

Following behind with a score of 80 points in our index is Luxembourg.

Luxembourg falls in last place for both economic opportunities and women in leadership, after our index awarded both aspects zero points. In fact, despite being among the smallest countries in Europe, Luxembourg has the worst percentage of women in leadership roles – just 2.1%.  

However, the country redeems itself slightly by scoring 80 points and ranking in seventh place, for its maternity package. Not only do Luxembourg pay mothers their full wage whilst taking leave, but they also offer once of the longest minimum periods for maternity leave (20 weeks, or 140 days).

 

5. Germany – 90 points

Next up is Germany, scoring 90 points and offering the fifth least opportunities for women according to our research.

Our Women in Work Index awarded 40 points each for economic opportunities and maternity packages, resulting in a ranking of 18 out of 30. It’s worth noting that despite Germany being one of the 11 European countries offering 100% maternity pay, this paid period lasts for just 14 weeks (98 days) – one of the lowest worldwide.

However, German woman may struggle to be a woman in leadership, after our research found that just 6.75% of women are employed in CEO or Executive level positions – the fourth lowest of all 30 countries studied.

 

6. Spain – 95 points

Scoring 6.5 more points than Germany is Spain.

Our research can reveal that 10.05% of women are hired in leadership roles, resulting in a low score of 16.6 in our index, and a ranking of 25 out of 30. Economic opportunities are seemingly unequal for Spanish women, according to our research. As a result, we have awarded Spain just 23.3 points which ranks them in 23rd (out of 30 countries).

When it comes to maternity packages, Spain ranks short on the top 10 in 12th. Even though the country offers mothers 100% maternity pay whilst on leave, the paid leave lasts for just 16 weeks (112 days), resulting in a score of 56.6.

 

7. Belgium – 96.6 points

Following closely behind Spain with a score of 96.6, Belgium also ranks among the bottom 10 countries with the least number of opportunities in the workplace.

Despite being in the bottom 10, when considering wage equality and estimated income to their male counterparts, Belgium ranks 11th. However, when it comes to women in leadership roles and maternity packages, Belgium lets its women down.

Our research found that Belgium has one of the worst maternity packages for mothers around the world, as they pay mothers 63% of their wage whilst on maternity leave, which is only 15 weeks long (105 days). As a result, our index has awarded Belgium 13.3 points, resulting in a ranking of 26 out of 30.

Furthermore, leadership roles are predominantly male-heavy too, as we found that 10.55% of females are employed in leadership positions, such as CEOs or Executives. Therefore, we have awarded Belgium with a score of 20 for this aspect, resulting in a ranking of 23 out of 30.

 

8. France – 103.2 points

With 6.6 more points than Belgium is neighbouring France, who also sits among the bottom 10 European countries.

Unlike Belgium, France fares better on the maternity package front, offering mothers 90% maternity leave pay. However, similarly to Belgium, paid leave doesn’t last long (16 weeks, 112 days) resulting in a score of 43.3 in our index (17th).

France scores 26.6 points (22nd) and 33.3 points (20th) for economic opportunities and women in leadership roles, respectively. In fact, according to our research, France hires more women in leadership roles than Belgium (11.75%).

 

9. Czech Republic – 110 points

Following behind in ninth is the Czech Republic who scored 110 points in our Women in Work Index.

Despite being in the bottom 10, the country was awarded a spot in the top 10 for their maternity package (9th place) – and 70 points in our index as a result – due to offering 28 weeks (196 days) paid leave, which is the fifth highest in the world. However, the country could have fared better if they offered a higher payment rate, as Czech women can expect just 61% of their salary whilst on leave.

However, when it comes to women in leadership roles and economic opportunities, the Czech Republic let its women down. The country only hires 11.15% of women in leadership positions (CEO or Executive) and is among the bottom five for economic opportunities when compared to Czech men. As a result, we have awarded 30 points for leadership prospects (21st) and 10 points for economic opportunities (27th).

 

10. Malta – 116.6 points

Rounding off the bottom 10 is Europe’s fifth smallest country, Malta, with 116.6 points in our study.

When taking into consideration factors such as wage equality and estimated income, Malta is among one of the worst in Europe (29th out of 30). Our research found that the country is among the bottom five for economic opportunities, resulting in a meagre score of 3.3 points in our index.

However, when it comes to women in leadership roles, things are much more positive for Maltese women. Our research found that 15.55% of women possess leadership roles in the country which, despite being low, is the 13th highest out of all countries studied. As a result, we have awarded Malta a score of 60.

The country also offers 18 weeks of paid leave, with 86% maternity pay during this time, which is fairly reasonable when compared to other countries in Europe. Accordingly, we have awarded Malta with a score of 53.3 in our index, resulting in a ranking of 14th out of 30.

 

Speaking about the results of our study, our CEO and Co-Founder, Naomi Aharony, says:

“The overall results have suggested that there is some progress in terms of gender equality in the workplace in Europe. Balkan countries such as Bulgaria and Croatia ranked highly, indicating that there are some improvements being made. Although, the disappointing positions of affluent Western European countries such as Germany and Denmark reaffirm that the progress towards gender parity remains slow in Europe.

Although it is good to see some advancement women still face numerous challenges when it comes to gender equality in the workplace that involves not only the wage gap, lack of leadership representation, government incentives and work-life balance. The prevailing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have undoubtedly intensified these challenges, with working mothers taking the brunt of the repercussions.”

 

The results in full

Rank

Country

Economic Opportunity (100 points)

Women in Leadership (100 points)

Maternity Leave (100 points)

Total Points

1 Bulgaria 46.6 90 100 236.6
2 Croatia 96.6 36.6 96.6 229.8
3 Estonia 60 80 80 220.0
4= Norway 83.3 100 26.6 209.9
4= Slovakia 33.3 83.3 93.3 209.9
5 Netherlands 93.3 56.6 56.6 206.5
6 Slovenia 80 73.3 46.6 199.9
7 Romania 50 96.6 50 196.6
8 Italy 100 6.6 73.3 179.9
9 Latvia 86.6 50 30 166.6
10 Sweden 73.3 76.6 16.6 166.5
11= Finland 70 53.3 33.3 156.6
11= Poland 30 46.6 80 156.6
12 United Kingdom 66.6 63.3 23.3 153.2
13 Ireland 53.3 86.6 3.3 143.2
14 Cyprus 36.6 70 36.6 143.2
15 Iceland 90 43.3 6.6 139.9
16 Denmark 56.6 66.6 10 133.2
17 Greece 20 20 90 130.0
18 Hungary 16.6 40 66.6 123.2
19 Malta 3.3 60 53.3 116.6
20 Czech Republic 10 30 70 110.0
21 France 26.6 33.3 43.3 103.2
22 Belgium 63.3 20 13.3 96.6
23 Spain 23.3 16.6 56.6 96.5
24 Germany 40 10 40 90.0
25 Luxembourg 0 0 80 80.0
26 Austria 13.3 3.3 56.6 73.2
27 Portugal 43.3 26.6 0 69.9
28 Turkey 6.6 13.3 20 39.9

 


 

Methodology:

1. We made reference to the European Institute for Gender Equality to find the countries in Europe with most women in leadership positions in the second half of 2020 (2020-B2). Leadership positions include CEOs and Executive roles.

2. The ‘economic opportunity’ for women in the workforce was found in the Global Gender Report 2020, and it takes into consideration factors such as wage equality for similar work and estimated income.

3. The maternity leave benefits of each country were found on World Population Review and took into consideration numbers of weeks of maternity leave multiplied by maternity leave rate (%).

4. Data was normalised using the percentrank.inc function in Excel. This ranks each factor between 0 and 100 based on the relative position within the sample.

5. The final score is calculated as a sum of the three factors for each country, with the maximum score possible being 300.

6. The full dataset can be downloaded here.

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