The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

There are only three countries in the world where your boss is more likely to be a woman

In just about every country in the world, someone like Marissa Mayer is sadly still an anomaly. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

Nearly a third of all businesses around the world are now owned or managed by women, according to a new study by the International Labor Organization (ILO). That number is hardly something to celebrate—for reasons I will discuss in a second—but there are a few (OK, only three) parts of the globe that appear to be somewhat (yes, only somewhat) exemplary in this regard.

Jamaica, Colombia, and Saint Lucia.

No other country in the world holds a candle to Jamaica, where just under 60 percent of all managers are women, according to the ILO. Colombia, the country with the second highest percentage of female bosses, manages 53 percent. In Saint Lucia, which is third among the 106 countries for which the ILO found data, the number is 52.3 percent.

Beyond those three, there is the Philippines, where just under 48 percent of all managers are female, Panama, where just over 47 percent are female, and Belarus, where the number is 46 percent. In the United States, which is number 15 on the list, about 43 percent of all managers are female; In Canada, the 43rd ranked, it's 36 percent; and in the United Kingdom, the 49th ranked, it's 34 percent.

At the very bottom of the list are Yemen, Pakistan and Algeria, where only 4.9 percent, 3 percent, and 2.1 percent of bosses are women, respectively. The rest of the bottom ten is occupied by countries in or around the Middle East and North Africa.

Here are the percentages for all 106 countries the ILO included:

Some of this should be seen as encouraging news. Women, after all, hold a much larger percentage of jobs globally (roughly 40 percent) than they have in the past. They represent roughly a quarter of all employers around the world, when you discount the Middle East and North Africa, where they account for only about 6 percent. And the number of female managers is soaring: In nearly 80 percent of countries, the proportion of female managers has grown since 2000, and in 23 countries the increase was by 7 percent of more.

But, as Deborah France-Massin, the ILO's director, says in the report, "there is a long way to go before we achieve true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions."

Though women are more likely to own or manage a business today than ever before, they're still extremely unlikely to hold a position of power in any of the world's largest companies. Less than 5 percent of those who own or manage the world's "biggest enterprises" are female. The report does little to sugarcoat this societal shortcoming: "The larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman," it says.

A similarly troubling trend seems to emerge when looking at gender equity among board members around the globe. A recent study by women's rights nonprofit Catalyst found that even among the world's most developed countries, women are still extremely underrepresented on the boards of large corporations. In all but one country—Norway—less than 30 percent of all board seats are held by women. Here, in the United States, where gender equity should be an example onto other nations, it seems to be just the opposite, at least by this measure: Less than 20 percent of all board seats are held by women in the United States.