OBJECTIVE: To assess international shortfall inequality in life expectancy at birth among women and men and the influence of geography and country income group. METHODS: The authors used estimates of life expectancy at birth, by sex, for 12 five-year periods between 1950-1955 and 2005-2010 and estimates of population for the midpoints of each period from the World population prospects, 2008 revision. Shortfall inequality was defined as the weighted average of the deviations of each country’s average life expectancy by sex from the highest attained life expectancy by sex for each period. FINDINGS: International shortfall inequalities in life expectancy among men and among women decreased between 1950 and 1975 but stagnated thereafter. International shortfall inequality in life expectancy has been higher in women than in men, ranging from 1.9 to 2.9 years. Women in low-income countries have the biggest shortfall, currently at around 26.7 years. CONCLUSION: International shortfall inequality is higher among women than men primarily because women in low-income and lower-middle-income country groups show larger differences in life expectancy than men. Further investigation is needed to determine the pathways causing these inequalities.