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Here are the most gender equal countries in the world

The U.S. is ranked 27th in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.
Image: Women's March
Demonstrators carry signs during the Women's March on Jan. 18, 2020 in Washington.Zach Gibson / Getty Images

International Women’s Day is on March 8. It’s a time to celebrate the economic, social, cultural and political achievements around the world.

So just how far have we come, and how much further do we have to go to achieve gender parity?

At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to achieve gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest data.

The most gender equal nations are Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden. The least gender equal countries are Chad, Iran, Congo, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The rankings by the World Economic Forum are based on factors including health, education, economic security and political power.

The United States ranked 27th on the list. Lauren Leader, the co-founder and CEO of women’s civic leadership organization “All In Together,” noted the U.S. is getting worse in several key areas, including maternal health. She added that Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa are ahead of the U.S. in terms of gender equity.

"I think what surprises people are the countries ahead of us on the list - it's not just the Nordic countries ... [but those] all over the world that continue to invest not just in women's health and economic security, but in their political power," Leader told Mika Brzezinski on "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. The two women were in Abu Dhabi for Know Your Value and Forbes' 30/50 summit in Abu Dhabi.

The summit brings more than 500 women from 50 countries, including honorees for Forbes “30 under 30” and “50 Over 50 list” March 7-10 over International Women’s Day. Speakers include Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Catherine O’Hara, Misty Copeland, Ayesha Curry, Jessica Alba and more. The goal is to create cross-generational alliances to provide guidance and insights to women at every stage of their career, while also offering diverse perspectives and rich cultural immersion.

In terms of the state of women in politics, women around the world hold 30 percent of seats in national legislatures. And currently, 27 countries have a woman as head of state or the head of government. Of the countries with more than 40 percent of women in parliament, two-thirds used gender quotas to get there.

"Year after year Iceland tops the rankings - it is one of the most gender equal nations on Earth because they've invested for decades in women's political leadership, in economic security and in childcare and in the infrastructure that you need for women to succeed in terms of health and welfare, " Leader said. "Of course 67 other nations have had women heads of state, not the United States, not yet."

Leader emphasized the connection between women's access to comprehensive healthcare - including abortion care - and their longterm progress in high-ranking countries.

"Across the rest of the OECD countries, maternal mortality has been declining consistently for 30 years, yet in the United States it has been increasing at an alarming rate," she said. "There's no question, around the world most other nations have expanded abortion care, but [the U.S.] is one of only three countries in the world that has rolled it back and it speaks to the understanding that women's health and reproductive rights are fundamental to their entire access to prosperity in a society."