35 Countries Where Women Feel the Most Welcome
In most countries, there’s still a lot that needs to be done in order to achieve true gender equality. A recent U.S. News & World Report survey ranked countries around the world based on metrics like citizenship, culture, power and quality of life, among others. From these findings, U.S. News & World Report culled the responses of nearly 9,800 women to determine which of them were the best — for women.
The rankings found are based on the following equally weighted attributes: care about human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress and safety. Europe took an overwhelming lead on the list, with Northern Europe ranking higher than anywhere else in the world. While no country was absolutely perfect, these 35 best countries for women guarantee the safest and most welcoming experiences for females travelers.
Often glossed over in favor of other more-written-about European destinations, Slovenia boasts a stunning natural landscape and centuries of history.
It's bordered by Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Italy and the Adriatic Sea, and is home to jewel-colored lakes, towering Alpine peaks, gorgeous Mediterranean climates and a history that dates back to the Roman Empire.
How It Ranks
While it is definitely better than many other places in the world for women, there is still room for improvement. For example, the country rated only a 21.6 for safety and 3.4 for income equality. Gender equality ranked 26.6.
In fact, a recent article in Total Slovenia News interviews women across the country, from all ages, who believe that while gender equality is better, there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to sexual harassment.
The southernmost Baltic nation, Lithuania is known for its beautiful beaches, deep forests and medieval-style wooden architecture. It's also one of the most vibrant nations, especially in the capital, Vilnius, which is known for its historic charm that sits alongside a thriving counterculture.
Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic nations and was once the ruling seat of Eastern Europe during the Renaissance. It was later gobbled up by the Soviet Union, but was the first to announce its independence from Moscow in 1990. Today, the government is a democracy, with both a president and a parliamentary system.
Latvia, tucked between Estonia and Lithuania, is another Baltic state, with roots in early triple settlements.
One of the larger European countries in terms of landmass, Latvia has a relatively small population, which allows for lots of undeveloped space and great geographic diversity, including stunning waterfalls, national parks and resort towns along the shimmering Baltic Coast.
With a population of more than 209 million people and a landmass that takes up half of the entire South American continent, Brazil is a huge nation in every sense. It is a cultural melting pot, with influences from all over the world and remains one of the top tourist destinations packed with adventure, beaches, cosmopolitan cities and deep, uncharted jungle.
Today, Brazil has one of the world's most thriving economies, though, in recent years, its politics have been deeply embedded with corruption, which has led to public outcry across social, economic and political plains.
Quite literally the largest country in the world (clocking in at more than 17 million square miles), Russia shares a border with more than 12 countries and sea borders with both Asia and North America. It is a widespread country with centuries of history, gorgeous architecture, a powerhouse of culture and the arts, and a flourishing gastronomic cuisine.
There are more than 100 languages in the country, and it has one of the most thriving economies in the world. That said, the country has fallen under harsh criticism for its authoritarian rule as well as the role it has played in violating human rights and inciting conflict around the world.
How It Ranks
Compared to the countries preceding it on this list, Russia leads the way for progress, with a ranking of 35.6. That said, gender equality leaves much to be desired, with a ranking of 11.5. Income equality is also far from example-setting, with an 11.7.
The Moscow Times reported that Russia's rating for gender equality actually dropped since December 2018, according to the Global Gender Gap Index. It fell six spots from 75th to 81st, placing between El Salvador and Ethiopia.
Bulgaria is, in a word, beautiful. A spine of misty mountains tumbles down to beautiful gold-sand beaches, vibrant cities, warm breezes and a haven for art and culture in this southeastern Balkan nation. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Bulgaria is a true blend between ancient and modern.
Plus, with bordering influences from Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Romania, its fabric is a criss-cross of cultures, cuisines, religions and customs.
How It Ranks
For women, Bulgaria does better than other countries on this list in terms of gender equality, but is certainly one of the less progressive countries.
It's safer than other countries in the region, but when it comes to income equality, there is always room for improvement. It lags behind Greece and Malta but is actually ahead of more progressive countries like Spain and Denmark when it comes to the gender pay gap.
Often overshadowed by its neighbor (and former counterpart) the Czech Republic, Slovakia is a treasure trove of natural wonders and historic gems waiting to be discovered.
A fairytale-scape of castle spires backed against jagged mountains, Slovakia is a labyrinth of Old Towns, veined with walking trails, glacial lakes and a few urban centers where pub culture reigns supreme.
How It Ranks
Income equality is severely lacking in Slovakia, with a small score of 3.9. That said, gender equality in Slovakia is considerably higher than other countries on this list, with a ranking of 25.9.
According to Pew Research, seven out of 10 people in Slovakia believe it is very important for women to have the same rights as men in the country.
At the center of a world that only two decades ago was completely shifted on its axis, Croatia remains at the cross-section of East and West. In terms of landscape it offers everything from rugged mountains to gorgeous, crystalline water and sugary beaches. It has vibrant, historic cities, architecture, museums and wonderfully rich cuisine.
Croatia is also the newest nation to join the EU, which happened in 2013. Its economy relies heavily on tourism, so it’s in a constant ebb and flow depending on the global temperature.
How It Ranks
Women still find that life in Croatia can be a bit of a struggle, but it’s better compared to many other countries in the world. Like many other countries in the Balkans, gender equality and equal pay here continue to be an issue.
Croatia is also a country that is slow to welcome progress. While Croatia is one of the more affordable European countries on the list, men are still paid significantly more than women, making it more difficult to be a single woman in the country.
This small nation in the Baltics touches Russia to the east and Latvia to the south, with more than 2,000 islands scattered in the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. A crossroads between Scandinavia and Russia, there have been numerous cultural influences throughout Estonia's history, from Danish and Swedish to German and Russian.
Its capital, Tallinn, is a dynamic capital that is seeing a rise in popularity among young tourists looking for the next affordable (and vibrant) European city to visit. In fact, Estonia is one of the most digitally connected countries on the continent. It also has one of the world's highest literacy rates.
26. United Arab Emirates
Comprising seven emirates on the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates is all about progress. Anyone who has visited Dubai or Abu Dhabi can attest to the speed of development and the sheer volume of hotels, restaurants and 21st-century enhancements.
All of this is juxtaposed against rolling sand dunes, centuries-old Bedouin culture, and art and heritage that has sustained hundreds of years.
How It Ranks
While the Middle East is among one of the most conservative destinations when it comes to gender equality, the United Arab Emirates is paving the way for change. Across the Arab world, women face repression, abuse and violence.
But, in 2018, the United Arab Emirates passed a law that mandated equal pay for men and women and also launched 20 for 2020, which aims at reaching 20 percent female representation on business boards across the country by the end of 2020.
25. South Korea
Five centuries of history and culture are packed into the peninsula that is South Korea. Known for its contrast of deep tradition with lightning-fast urban centers, South Korea is a dizzying dose for the senses.
Discover gorgeous temples, craggy mountains, dense forests, cities that flash with neon and a year-round calendar that celebrates festivals, music and food.
Greece is one of the birthplaces of modern society, and it is one of the places in the world where we can trace millennia of history, politics and culture. To Greece, we owe the concept of democracy, the Olympics, philosophy and so much more.
It’s also naturally beautiful, with volcanoes, world-class beaches, petrified forests, olive groves and beyond. Greek food is iconic, fresh and flavorful. And the people of Greece are warm, welcoming and vibrant.
23. Czech Republic
One of Europe's most-traveled destinations (thanks to the splendor, history and culture of Prague), the Czech Republic has a turbulent past.
When communism fell in 1989, the country underwent a transformation and today is a haven for Gothic architecture, storybook settings, cultural villages and mystical forests. (It's also one of the key beer capitals of Europe.)
How It Ranks
The Czech Republic is certainly more progressive than other parts of the world but still ranks among the lowest in Europe, which directly affects its gender equality and income equality.
The Czech Republic is still one of the six nations that have not approved the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.
China has one of the oldest civilizations in the world, dating back at least 4,000 years. Home to a population of 1.4 billion (the largest in the world) and a GDP of $13.6 trillion, it is one of the largest countries, in every sense, on the planet. It is a country of contrasts, from thoroughly modern cities and transportation systems, to deeply rooted ancient traditions, temples and customs.
Fascinating architecture and iconic protected landmarks pop out of mist-covered forests. Jade-colored peaks rise up from snaking river valleys. And cities that we have never even heard of are home to millions and millions of people. There are nearly 300 languages recognized in the country. The economy in China is the world's second largest behind the United States.
How It Ranks
China has transitioned from a centrally planned, single-party socialist state into a market-based economy, and an aging generation that has more exposure to online media is helping the progressive mindset of society. In fact, China has one of the most progressive societies in the world.
That said, gender equality, safety and income equality are sorely trailing behind.
Poland is known around the world for its cultural contributions. In fact, it was the birthplace of figures like Nicolaus Copernicus and Marie Curie. It also gave the world classical music composers like Frederic Chopin and filmmakers like Roman Polanski. Poland has the largest economy in Central Europe and was one of the only economies to sidestep the recession in 2009.
But Poland's past has been tumultuous, having been decimated by the Holocaust. In fact, because of Poland's position, it has been a strategic point for conflict throughout Europe's history, and its culture is reflective of that.
A melting pot of cultures, Singapore is rising as one of the top places to visit in Asia.
It has one of the fastest economies in the world, a transportation system that is ahead of its time, an ever-changing skyline, some of the most vibrant street food in the world and is just as much a shopper's paradise as it is for green initiatives.
How It Ranks
However, Singapore still has a long way to go, as it’s one of the worst countries for working women. Women are still paid 20 percent less than men. They also give women 20 weeks combined paid maternity and paternity leave, whereas Finland gives its citizens 161 weeks of combined maternity and paternity leave.
It's also one of the lower-ranking countries for women in board positions and cost of living for women. That’s not to mention that women also have 17 percent fewer retirement savings than men.
Portugal manages to retain its status as one of Europe's best-kept secrets. It's very much on the mainstream travel path but is a fraction of the cost compared to neighboring France and Spain. It has a history that is rooted in maritime tradition, especially during the age of exploration, and its influences date as far back as the Celts and the Moors, who settled here in the 1100s. Portugal's reach stretched as far as India, China, Japan and Africa, not to mention Brazil.
Today, it's a country with a deep wine tradition, medieval towns, thick forests and beautiful coastal communities.
A land of contrasts that seem to flow seamlessly together, Japan is as much about being exceedingly modern as it is about being steeped in ancient traditions. Cities like Tokyo move at a mile a minute, while a visit to the countryside is like taking a step back in time. Temples rub elbows with neon-flashing skyscrapers. Mountains loom in the distance topped with powdery snow.
It's a culture focused on wellness, beauty and tranquility, yet is a country that has very little work-life balance. It's a country known for its cuisine, art, history and culture and one of the more fascinating places to visit in the world.
How It Ranks
Quality of life for women in Japan is certainly ahead of many other places in the world. Seventy-five percent of people ages 15 to 64 have a paying job, though only 67 percent of that number is actually women, and 83 percent are men. Education is among the highest in Japan compared to the rest of the world, with more than 78 percent of people in the country between 25 and 64 having completed upper secondary education.
Life expectancy for women is 87 years old, compared with 81 years old for men. A reported 11 percent of the population is overworked, leading to lower satisfaction in terms of quality of life. But Japan has one of the highest progress scores (it's 100), which means that there is ample room for improvement in the future.
A land of food, wine, culture, design and art, Spain is all about living a balanced life, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. It has a diverse landscape, from the balmy beach life along the Mediterranean coast, to the adrenaline-pumping peaks in the Sierra Nevada and Pyrenees, and the rolling fields in Andalucia.
Spain has a culture that loves to celebrate, whether it's on a canvas or through a late-night flamenco performance in the plaza. Spain is a land of architectural treasures as well, from the Moorish Alhambra to the living Gaudi museum that are the streets of Barcelona.
How It Ranks
The women of Spain have been rallying for equality for years, and in 2018, 5.9 million people took to the streets to fight for gender equality on International Women's Day. It ended up being one of the largest demonstrations in the world.
Spain is one of the global leaders when it comes to gender equality, but it is by no means perfect — yet. Progress is slow. Women are taking higher positions in business and politics, but they still lag behind on equal pay, among many other areas.
One of the most-visited countries in Europe (not to mention the world), Italy holds a special place in the hearts of travelers. Its food, art, history, culture, architecture, design and love for La Dolce Vita is beloved around the world among everyone from backpackers to the most well-heeled and haute travelers.
From the canals of Venice to the piazzas of Rome, the Mediterranean hillside villages, and the stunning coves and beaches, Italy has something for everyone.
How It Ranks
For women, Italy is one of the safest countries to live in. Its gender equality scores above 54.6, when compared to other countries, but its income equality is still only 12.4. At the end of 2019, Italy aimed to attract more women to corporate boards, to raise the threshold to 40 percent.
While Italy used to be one of the worst European countries in terms of gender equality, it has skyrocketed to being one of the best. A law passed in 2011 required companies to have at least 30 percent female representation on their boards.
15. United States
One of the largest countries in the world, in terms of size, GDP and population, the United States is the world's most dominant economic and military power. It also happens to be one of the most ethnic, racial and identity diverse countries on the planet.
Its topography runs the spectrum, from endless grasslands to towering mountains, undulating coastline, forests, wine country, mangroves and desert. It has centuries of history, culture, art and a thriving gastronomy scene. It is a country where, no matter who you are, you can find a group to belong to.
How It Ranks
The U.S. has actually come a long way in terms of gender equality, and it’s ahead of most other countries in the world. It is one of the most entrepreneurial-minded countries in the world and is highly progressive, with a gender equality score of 71. Women hold high positions in politics and business.
That said, when it comes to healthcare, the pay gap, sexual harassment and a whole host of other issues, the U.S. lags woefully behind. In fact, the World Economic Forum projected that it would take more than 200 years to close gender gaps here.
Did you know that France is the most-visited country in the world? That's right. France receives 89 million visitors per year. And for good reason. It's a fascinating country known for its art, music, architecture, fashion, cuisine, design and landscape.
Find gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, medieval villages, rich wine valleys, the Alps, and sophisticated, cosmopolitan cities. The French economy is one of the best in the world and tourism is a massive contributor to that.
How It Ranks
France is one of the most progressive societies in Europe, with a very strong belief in gender equality. Equal pay, however, still has a long way to go. According to CNBC, France had the smallest unadjusted pay gap in 2019 at 11.6 percent.
In 2019, though, the French government established new obligations for employers in order to promote equality in the workplace, including penalties for failure to address pay inequality.
13. United Kingdom
One of the most highly developed nations in the world, the United Kingdom is an epicenter of politics, culture, art and science. It also has one of the oldest histories in the Western world, with centuries of documented history and an empire that stretched to the farthest corners of the world.
London is one of the world's biggest financial and cultural hubs at the forefront of cosmopolitan energy, cuisine, hospitality and art. The U.K. is also home to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which each has complex and intricate histories, culture, customs and cuisine.
How It Ranks
The U.K. is certainly one of the most progressive places in Europe and does place considerable weight on gender equality. But like most everywhere else in the world, gender equality fails to actually be equal.
In fact, the U.K. fell six places down the global rankings from 2018, according to the World Economic Forum. At this point, it will take 100 years for the U.K. to achieve gender parity. The Global Gender Gap report 2020 says the gender wage gap in the UK was 16 percent.
If you've never heard of Luxembourg, don't fret. It's one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of less than 1 million and 998 square miles. It's sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany. But don't let size fool you — Luxembourg is one of the world's wealthiest nations with a GDP of nearly $70 billion.
What is it known for? Picture everything you love about Switzerland, and remove the crowds. Towering mountains, green hills, quaint forests, castles and sophisticated cities.
How It Ranks
One of the safest countries in the world, Luxembourg provides economic and political stability to its citizens as well as a robust public education and public health system. It's considerably progressive, though lags behind countries like the U.K. and France.
The World Bank's "Women, Business and the Law 2020" report found that eight countries, including Luxembourg, now have completely equal rights for men and women.
Germany is one of the most thriving and successful economies in the world, with a history that dates back centuries and has been shaped by nearly everyone else on the continent. Today, Germany has some of the most progressive cities in the world as well as historic traditions throughout, a blossoming cuisine, wine culture, rivers, mountains and a dynamic artistic scene that surely dates back to its roots as one of the musical capitals of the world.
It also has a highly skilled and wealthy workforce, and the country is part of several international organizations for peace and equality.
How It Ranks
Germany is, without a doubt, progressive. It's also one of the safest countries in the world, with a well-distributed political power, a passion for the environment and human rights and is economically stable (albeit far from affordable). It also has one of the best public education and public health systems in the world. Its Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was also the longest-serving head of government in the EU.
Still, Merkel says that gender equality remains a major issue in Germany, noting that 76 percent of women are employed, while 84 percent of men of the same age are employed. In Germany, large companies are legally obliged to employ at least one-third of their boards with women, but smaller companies do not have the same obligations.
Austria is a stunning country, with a culture rich in influence from all over the world, elaborate architecture, world-renowned classical music, a flourishing modern art scene and fantastic ski towns.
It may be one of the smaller countries on this list, but its position throughout history and its influence on the world has been long-lasting, making it a major player on the global stage.
How It Ranks
Austria has one of the highest standards of living in the world, meaning it's not a cheap place to live. That said, the benefits it affords its citizens are fantastic, including one of the world's best public education and health systems, a stable economy and a safe place to live.
For women, it is one of the best in terms of gender equality as well as human rights. The pay gap, however, is still an issue. Austrian women earn about 15 percent less than the median wage of men. It's better than the average for the EU, but inequality is still inequality.
Australia, the only country that is also its own continent, is one of the largest in the world, both in terms of landmass and economy. It also is steeped in history, having been occupied for more than 40,000 years. In the 18th century, the British colonized Australia, shaping the way it functions today in terms of society and government.
Today, it is a melange of Western cultures as well as Asian cultures, given its proximity to Asia. It's a paradise for adventure lovers, divers, surfers, foodies and culture aficionados.
How It Ranks
For women, Australia is an incredibly progressive nation — one of the most in the world. It also places an emphasis on the environment, human rights and gender equality. It is economically stable with a thriving job market and a stable body of government.
It is also one of the highest rated in terms of income equality, though the full-time gender pay gap is still 13.9 percent, with women earning around $242 a week less than men.
8. New Zealand
New Zealand remains one of the top bucket list destinations for travelers all over the world. A confluence of British and Polynesian influences, it is one of the most unique, diverse and remote places to visit in the world.
The majority of New Zealand's population lives in the north island, meaning the rest of the country is left to unadulterated nature just waiting to be explored. The country's biggest exports are dairy, sheep, beef and wine. Locals make a relatively high living, and education is a top priority.
How It Ranks
The country’s push for gender equality is among the highest in the world. New Zealanders, aka Kiwis, are passionate about the environment and human rights. It is also one of the safest places to live, thanks to its stable economy, strong job market and political stability, and is better in terms of income equality.
That said, abortion is still illegal in the country. In 2015, New Zealand was one of the countries that agreed to the U.N.'s 17 sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030. But as of this year, it is still in 11th place.
Switzerland is one of the smallest countries in Central Europe, but packs a punch across every category, from food and wine to adventure travel, luxury hospitality, nature, vibrant cities, art, music and culture.
The Swiss Confederation was founded in the 13th century and saw itself at the center of many conflicts until it declared its own federal government in the late 19th century. Since then, it has been one of the most peaceful, most educated and safest nations in the world.
How It Ranks
It's a nation with a solid distribution of political power and high advocacy for human rights. It is one of the least affordable countries in the world, but its citizens make a high annual income. The country also enjoys political stability and one of the most stable economies in the world. Plus, you guessed it, the country’s public education and public health systems are world-class.
While Swiss citizens earn good wages and enjoy tremendous personal freedom, the gap between men and women still exists. In 2019, a large number of women were elected to parliament, which could change the future for women in Switzerland. As of now, Switzerland still has a large gender wage gap when it comes to senior roles. Studies show that women earn about one-fifth less than men for full-time jobs.
The beauty of Finland is much more than skin deep, though its skin is remarkably breathtaking. It has untapped, wild nature like nowhere else, with glacially blue lakes, deep sage-colored forests and some of Europe's best areas for outdoor adventure. It's also one of the best places in the world to enjoy the northern lights.
Helsinki is a thoroughly modern city and a capital of design, home to beautiful architecture, an all-night music scene and a thriving gastronomical landscape. But there's so much more to love about Finland, especially with respect to gender equality.
How It Ranks
Finland is one of the nations leading the charge when it comes to gender equality and equal pay. In fact, the head of state in Finland is a 34-year-old woman from the Social Democratic Party, and her government is led entirely by women, four of them under 35.
The cabinet has a female majority as well. Finland has long been a champion for gender equality, as women gained the right to vote in 1906. What's more, the women-to-men labor participation rate is 88.5 percent. Comparably, the global average is 65.8 percent.
Canada is the largest country, in terms of landmass, in North America, and the second-largest country in the world. That said, it has one of the lowest populations per square mileage, and most residents live along the border with the U.S., which means northern Canada is all about uninterrupted nature and beauty.
Canada is also one of the most culturally celebratory nations in the world, encouraging its citizens to honor their native cultures. It has a high standard of living, is tech-forward and is the world's fifth-largest oil producer.
How It Ranks
Canada is a wonderfully welcoming place to live, especially for women. In terms of gender equality, it is one of the most accepting, with a high emphasis on human rights and a balanced distribution of political power.
The economy is stable with an open job market, and the country is safe, with one of the world's best education and public healthcare systems. Ninety-five percent of girls finish high school, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized a gender-equal cabinet.
Norway, the westernmost country in Scandinavia, is a mountaineer’s paradise, with a stunning landscape composed of fjords, bays, and rocky, snow-capped islands. Most of the population lives in and around the capital, Oslo.
Norwegians earn a high income, are highly educated and progressive, and place strong emphasis on the environment, human rights and a distribution of political power.
This coastal country is located in an interesting position between Germany, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. It has a long period of colonization all over the world, but throughout the centuries has been occupied itself, by Spain and France.
Its people are world-renowned for their tolerance, and it has a relaxed stance on abortion, drugs and euthanasia. It was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. Its citizens highly value physical fitness as well as the environment.
How It Ranks
The Netherlands is one of the best places to live not only in Europe, but in the world. It treats its citizens with the highest levels of respect, in terms of human rights, the environment, gender equality, a stable economy, health, education and safety.
Among European nations, it also has one of the smallest pay gaps on the continent. According to the 2019 Gender Equality Index, the Netherlands ranked sixth in the EU, with a score that is 4.7 points higher than the rest of the European Union.
Sweden is one of the largest countries on the European continent and the largest of the Scandinavian countries, bordered by Norway and the Baltic Sea. One of the most peaceful countries in the world, Sweden is a capitalist society that places a strong emphasis on healthcare, education and public service.
It's also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with deep blue lakes and rivers, eclectic cities, fantastic design and an ancient, storied past.
How It Ranks
Sweden prides itself on making life as seamless for its citizens as possible. In fact, Sweden ranks No. 1 for Best Countries for Citizenship. This is based on gender equality, the environment, human rights, distribution of political power and trust. It is one of the most economically stable countries in the world, with near-perfect public education and public health systems.
Income equality is among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 percent of women in employment. However, there is room for growth, as the Gender Equality Index reports that 74 percent of women do housework or cook, compared to 56 percent of men.
Denmark is world-renowned for having the highest quality of life for its citizens. This fairytale land full of castles and cobbled lanes is constantly rated as the happiest country on earth. The gap between rich and poor is virtually non-existent, as its citizens seem to, by and large, be satisfied with having exactly what they need.
Modern infrastructure, a gorgeous architectural aesthetic and a vision for fashion, food and art makes Denmark one of the most comfortable, approachable and livable countries in the world.
How It Ranks
Denmark sets the gold standard on the global scale when it comes to quality of life for women. In the report released by U.S. News & World Report, Denmark received a score of 95.7 for gender equality. It is also a country that cares about the environment and human rights and is one of the safest countries in the world. Income equality also received a 91.5.
According to the EU's Gender Equality Index, Denmark is one of the top-scoring countries, with a score that's almost 10 points above the average.