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Belgium in top 20 of global opportunity index for women

19:27 02/03/2021

Belgium is number 19 in a ranking of 100 countries based on women’s achievements and opportunities. The Female Opportunity Index has been released this week in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The data was put together by the Berlin-based N26 bank, which offers fully digital banking services. “As part of their mission to help people feel in control of their lives, and their finances, N26 commissioned the study to understand where they can champion change by looking into workplace achievements and the factors that drive female independence,” said the bank in a statement.

The results of the index, it continues, “celebrate the countries that are showing the greatest advancements, while bringing attention to those that could be supporting working women better in 2021 and beyond”.

The study looked at leadership, including women in politics, management positions and entrepreneurs. It also rated salaries and wage gaps, availability and length of maternity leave and women working in Stem subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Kicking it in management

A total of 100 countries spanning continents were compared to create the list. Belgium ranks 19th on the list, which is led by Norway, Finland and Iceland. While it lagged a bit behind neighbours Germany and France (numbers five and 14, respectively), it beat the Netherlands quite handily; that country came in at 37.

Belgium did well across the board, earning 88.08 on a comparative 100-point scale. The country scored better in the Women in Management and Women in Government categories than many countries that fall higher on the index, ensuring it a place in the top 20.

If Belgium wants to climb higher on the Female Opportunity Index, it needs to improve in a few areas, not least of all by appointing a female head of government. The index goes back to 1970, counting up how many years a country has been governed by a woman, with Belgium coming in at one year.

Belgium's former prime minister Sophie Wilmes
Belgium’s one and only year with a woman prime minister was down to Sophie Wilmès  ©Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA

That’s being generous: Sophie Wilmès took charge of the minority-led government just shy of a year between 2019 and 2020. Norway, for instance, has been led by a woman for 17 years, the UK and Germany 15 years each and New Zealand for 14 years.

Belgium could also work on getting more girls to study Stem subjects and then later translating those diplomas to jobs. On the up side, the country scores extremely well in access to education.

Bottom of the list, by the way, are Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan.

N26 has a stake in global opportunities for women as its services are offered around the world, and financially independent women mean more business for them. “Yes, there’s much more to life than money, but we think it’s a good place to start,” says N26 COO Adrienne Gormley. “We want to understand what can hold women back when it comes to being financially confident, to understand the drivers behind financial independence.”

Photo top: Maria Ponomariova/Getty Images


Written by Lisa Bradshaw