The Nordic countries are the world's best in promoting gender equality?, ?a new report by the World Economic Forum has found.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 has ranked Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden first, second, third and fourth, respectively, in demonstrating the greatest equality between men and women. All four Nordic countries also scored in the top four in 2009.

The report ranks Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen among the bottom ten of the index, displaying the widest gaps in equality.

The United States has narrowed its gender divide, climbing 12 places to enter the top 20 for the first time in the report's five-year history. The rise reflects the higher number of women in leading roles in government and improvements in the wage gap.

The Gender Gap index assesses 134 countries on how well they divide resources and opportunities among male and female populations. The report calculates the size of the gender inequality gap in four categories: health and life expectancy, employment and income, access to education, representation in politics.

"Women and girls must be treated equally if a country is to grow and prosper," said WEF founder Klaus Schwab.

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