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Last updated: 29 July 2022

15 Best European Countries for Newly Graduated Women to Succeed in

The Top 3 Best & Worst Countries For Female Graduates

The journey from the academic world to the labour market is far from easy. While there is certainly a good proportion of graduates that relocate for cultural exploration purposes, others are motivated by the career growth opportunities of moving abroad. As tempting as it may be to simply throw a dart at a map, your first job as a graduate can play a pivotal role in shaping the rest of your career.

Despite more and more women enrolling in higher education, having a college degree has not always provided an equal playing field for men and women. In other words, a fresh female graduate usually has her work cut out for her upon graduation.

Even though there is legislation to protect women against discrimination in recruitment, the EU still has some work to do when it comes to the glass ceiling: a phrase coined to shed light on the unconscious biases and assumptions that exist in our society today that impede women from fully realising their leadership potential and progressing in their careers.

Market Inspector was inspired by the latest wave of media coverage around gender equality to investigate which of the Schengen countries offer female graduates the best opportunities to further their career. The top three countries that offer the best opportunities for female graduates are Sweden, Norway, and Belgium.

Here's a breakdown of some of Europe's top countries for female graduate employability.

Map IconRankingCountries
 Star Pin1Sweden
Map pin 2-32-3Norway and Belgium
 Map Pin 4-104-10Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Germany and Denmark
 Map pin 11-1511-15United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Latvia, France and Lithuania

If you would like to use this map on your website, use the embed code below:

The Top 3 Countries in Europe for Female Graduates

To determine which countries are making the biggest strides to ensure women are treated the same way as their male cohorts, we analysed and graded our sample set based on six metrics, from gender employment gap, gender pay gap, to other macro-economic indicators of a country. In the end, Sweden, Norway, and Belgium occupied the top three spots, with Czechia, Cyprus, and Greece ranking the lowest.

It is worth mentioning that one key finding from our research was that women working in EU and Schengen countries have a distinct advantage over their peers outside of this areas, which is job security post-maternity leave. This refers to the law regulations that impose employers to guarantee the same or a similar job position after an employee takes maternity leave.


Sweden earned the top spot in our index, with a final score of 79.4. At the basis of the Swedish approach is the concept that everyone has the right to work and be self sufficient, to balance career and family, and to live without fearviolence, or abuseregardless of their gender. For this reason, Sweden takes the top spot for the best country in Europe for female graduates to work in.

All the policies connected to this topic are controlled by the Minister for Gender Equality, which was established in 1954. Also, the government has established an agency called the Equality Ombudsman whose duty it is to oversee compliance with the discriminatory act. Since the introduction of the Global Gender Gap Index in 2006, which measures equality in areas such as economics, politics, education, and health, Sweden has never once dropped below 5th position. Sweden also ranks as the top country in Europe to provide supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs.

However, even though Sweden scores impressively across all our metrics, the pay gap and proportion of women in top positions are by no means perfect in the private sector; at least not by Swedish standards. That being said, in the revised version of the Swedish Discrimination Act, two aspects have been improved: employers have to actively pursue specific goals to implement gender equality, and they have to take action in fighting possible sexual harassment scenarios.


Scoring 78.2 on our index, Norway is a great choice if you are a recent graduate in either engineering, medicine, tourism, oil and gas, or the fishing industry. Just like Sweden, Norway has a strong approach towards gender equality issues.

In fact, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) refers to Norway as heaven for gender equality. It should come as no surprise then, that Norway has always scored highly in the Global Gender Gap index. In contrast to their peers in lesser developed European markets, women entrepreneurs in Norway are able to draw from a large pool of resources, including access to financial capital. This means that the odds against the growth potential of a woman entrepreneur’s business are much less stacked in Norway than they would otherwise be had she been operating in a less developed economy.

Although English is widely spoken in Norway, it is worth bearing in mind that Norway does have a high standard of living combined with an excellent education system, so unless you are truly a master of your craft, expect to be up against stiff competition during your job hunt.

Just like in Sweden, some issues are still present in Norway, including violence against women, prostitution, and the rights of immigrant and indigenous (sami) women.


If you enjoy medieval towns, Renaissance architecture, music festivals, or a good beer, Belgium is your perfect destination to work abroad in Europe, scoring 75.9 on our index. Belgium not only boasts one of the smallest wage gaps in both Europe and the OECD, but unlike the UK, where transparency around how much men and women earn has only recently become enforced, this has been the norm in Belgium for years. This territorially small country started to implement gender equality normatives since as early as the 1980s.

At the moment, IT and technology are booming in Belgium, as are industries such as finance, insurance, and banking. If you are multilingual in either Dutch, French, or German, your chances of securing work in Belgium are definitely enhanced.

Nevertheless, there is still a strong presence of segregation and discrimination in the workplace in that women are still under-represented in management, particularly when compared to Sweden and Norway.

The 3 Lowest Ranking Countries in Europe for Freshly Graduated Women


With its gothic spires and considerably lower living costs by European capital standards, Czechia would have made an attractive destination for female graduates if it were not for its gender disparity. Despite offering its female workforce one of the most generous maternity leave schemes, Czechia has the second widest gender wage gap in Europe, a whopping 21.9%. However, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) report stipulates that this longer maternity leave may in fact be contributing to this gap in the sense that Czech men are not as motivated to participate at home.


In Greece, there is a high unemployment rate for women with college degrees - more than double the EU average. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this one-time colony of Greece came second last in our index. To put things into perspective, eight times more men than women are employed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions in Cyprus.

To add to this gender disparity, many female expats also report that making local friends in Cyprus is challenging and that a language barrier is a key impediment in career advancement. That being said, according to the EIGE, Cyprus has exhibited faster progress since 2005 in relation to its European peers, with the biggest strides made in the domains of knowledge and decision-making power.


With a nearly eight-year-long economic crisis already crushing Greece with record unemployment, gender segregation in the labour market is another reality for men and women alike, with almost thrice the number of women employed in education, human health, and social work activities than men.

Unfortunately, the gender equality index has not shown any improvement despite efforts by the Greek government with similar numbers since 2005. The male dominated system still has a relatively strong hold on the Greek population.

How Does the UK Compare to the Rest of Europe?

With a female Prime Minister, it probably comes as no surprise that women make up over a third of senior and middle management positions in the UK. Yet, the 21% pay gap is still far from ideal. However, as per new regulations that came into effect earlier this year, all UK companies employing 250 or more workers are now required to publish their gender pay gaps. Those failing to publish the figures face penalties.

Additionally, according to a paper by The House of Commons Library, the female employment rate has also hit an all time high at 70.8%. Industry-wise, women are most commonly employed in health and social work where they make up over three-quarters of the sector, wholesale and retail (14%), and education (12%). Regionally, female employment rates are highest in the South East and South West of England, and lowest in the West Midlands and Northern Ireland.

The good news, however, is that women accounted for 28.7% of directors of FTSE 100 companies this year, up from only 12.5% in 2010. The FTSE 100 Index, which stands for Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, represents companies listed in the London Stock Exchange with the highest capitalisation. These figures are not only indicative of UK's commitment towards gender fairness, but also mark a watershed moment for women's representation in the boardroom.


Market Inspector’s research aimed to find the countries with the best labour market environment for newly graduated women to succeed in. With this purpose in mind, we collected data in relation to six different metrics to evaluate how well the countries utilise their female workforce.

We decided to focus our attention to the European Union and the Schengen area. The choice of including the European Union came about as the countries members report most of the information required on a year basis.

Moreover, we extended the analysis to the Schengen area since it functions as a singular jurisdiction for travelling purposes. This means that in the member countries of this area there is a common visa policy for work and leisure purposes.

All the metrics are relevant for our scope and to better explain their impact we will present them as follows:

Metrics Used and their Sources
Metric NameMetric DescriptionSource
Female share of employment in senior and middle managementThe percentage of women occupying high-tier positions in the private sector of each country.World Bank’s World Development Indicators
Global Competitiveness IndexThe competitiveness of an economy on a global level.Global Competitiveness Index
Ease of access to financial capitalThe ease by which women can access productive assets such as credit, land, and other similar financial means for business purposes compared to men.Women, Peace, and Security Index
Unemployment with advanced educationThe proportion of women with advanced education that are unemployed. Within this metric, ‘advanced education’ is defined as a Bachelor degree.Worldbank’s World Development Indicators
Gender employment gapThe percentage difference between male and female employment rates in a given country.Europa’s Gender Employment Gap Statistics
Gender Pay gapThe percentage difference in salary between men and women in a given country.Europa’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics

Notable Exclusions

During the research of the data we unfortunately discovered a lack of information for two of EU member states: Bulgaria and Liechtenstein. Yet, in this part of the article you can find the data we were able to collect.


For this country we were able to find information for four of the metrics. The numbers for Bulgaria are:

    • Gender Pay Gap: 14.4%
    • Ease of Access to Financial Capital: 63.16%
    • Global Competitive Index: 4.5
    • Gender employment gap: 8%


We couldn’t find any of the relevant data for this Principality between Switzerland and Austria.

How did we get to these conclusions?

In order to standardise the results and even out all the metrics, we converted the raw data into percentages. At this point, we summed up all the percentages obtained for each country and divided it for the number of metrics. This way we obtained our Market Inspector Index.


In the following section you can find all the raw data we utilised for our article.

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