Women in government

A world map showing countries governmental participation by women, 2010.

Women in government in the modern era are under-represented in most countries worldwide. Even though some progress has been made during the last two centuries, and women are increasingly being politically elected to be heads of state and government, this tendency is still persistent.[1] As of 2016, the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is 22.6%.[2] A number of countries are exploring measures that may increase women's participation in government at all levels, from the local to the national.


Increasing women's representation in the government can empower women[3] and is necessary to achieve gender parity.[4] This notion of women's empowerment is rooted in the human capabilities approach, in which individuals are empowered to choose the functioning that they deem valuable.[5]

Women, as the conventional primary caretakers of children, often have a more prominent role than men in advocating for children, resulting in a "double dividend" in terms of the benefits of women's representation.[3] Female representatives not only advance women's rights, but also advance the rights of children. In national legislatures, there is a notable trend of women advancing gender and family-friendly legislation. This advocacy has been seen in countries ranging from France, Sweden and the Netherlands, to South Africa, Rwanda, and Egypt. Furthermore, a number of studies from both industrialized and developed countries indicate that women in local government tend to advance social issues.[3] In India, for instance, greater women's representation has corresponded with a more equitable distribution of community resources, including more gender-sensitive spending on programs related to health, nutrition, and education.

In 1954, the United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women went into force, enshrining women's equal rights to vote, hold office, and access public services as provided for male citizens within national laws.

Worldwide status of women's representation in government

As of October 25, 2013, the global average of women in national assemblies is 21.5%.[6] At the same time, large differences exist between countries, e.g. Sri Lanka has quite low female participation rates in parliament compared with Denmark, Sweden and Norway, where female representation rates are among the highest.[7]

Women in national parliaments

Out of 189 countries, listed in descending order by the percentage of women in the lower or single house, the top 10 countries with the greatest representation of women in national parliaments are (figures reflect information as of April 1, 2013):[8]

Rank Country Lower or Single House Upper House or Senate
1 Rwanda 56.3% 38.5%
2 Andorra 50%
3 Cuba 48.9%
4 Sweden 47%
5 Iceland 44%
6 Senegal 42.7%
7 Finland 42.5%
8 South Africa 42.3% 32.1%
9 Seychelles39.7%
10Spain39.5% 39.1%

New figures are available for up to February 2014 from International IDEA, Stockholm University and Inter-Parliamentary Union. (2014) at http://www.quotaproject.org/quotas.cfm

Although over 60% of countries have reached at least 10% women in their national legislature, far fewer have crossed the 20% and 30% barriers. By February 2006, only about 10% of sovereign nations had more than 30% women in parliament.[9] The major English-speaking democracies are placed mostly in the top 40% of the ranked countries. New Zealand ranks at position 27 with women comprising 32.2% of its parliament. Australia (24.7% in the lower house, 38.2% in the upper house) and Canada (24.7% lower house, 37.9% upper house) rank at position 46 out of 189 countries. The United Kingdom is ranked at 58 (22.5% lower house, 22.6% upper house), while the United States ranks 78 (17.8% in the lower house, 20.0% in the upper house).[8] It should be noted that not all of these lower and/or upper houses in national parliaments are democratically elected; for example, in Canada members of the upper house (the Senate) are appointed.

Paxton describes three factors that are the basis for why national level representation has become much larger over the past several decades. The first is the changing structural and economic conditions of nations, which says that educational advancements along with an increase in women's participation in the labor force encourages representation.[10] The second is the political factor; representation of women in office being based on a proportionality system. Some voting systems are built so that a party that gains 25% of the votes gains 25% of the seats. In these processes, a political party feels obligated to balance the representation within their votes between genders, increasing women's activity in political standing. A plurality-majority system, such as the one the United States, United Kingdom, and India has, only allows single candidate elections, and thus allows political parties to entirely dictate regions' representatives even if they only control a small majority of the vote. Last, there is the ideological disposition of a country; the concept that the cultural aspects of women's roles or positions in the places they live dictate where they stand in that society, ultimately either helping or handicapping those women from entering political positions.[10]

Challenges faced by women

Women face numerous obstacles in achieving representation in governance.[3] Their participation has been limited by the assumption that women's proper sphere is the "private" sphere. Whereas the "public" domain is one of political authority and contestation, the "private" realm is associated with the family and the home.[5] By relegating women to the private sphere, their ability to enter the political arena is curtailed.

Gender inequality within families, inequitable division of labor within households, and cultural attitudes about gender roles further subjugate women and serve to limit their representation in public life.[3] Societies that are highly patriarchal often have local power structures that make it difficult for women to combat.[11] Thus, their interests are often not represented or under-represented.

There have been many arguments saying the plurality-majority voting system is a disadvantage to the chance that women get into office. Andrew Reynolds brings forth one of these arguments by stating: "Plurality-majority single-member-district systems, whether of the Anglo-American first-past-the-post (FPTP) variety, the Australian preference ballot alternative vote (AV), or the French two-round system (TRS), are deemed to be particularly unfavorable to women's chances of being elected to office".[12] Andrew believes that the best systems are list-proportional systems. "In these systems of high proportionality between seats won and votes cast, small parties are able to gain representation and parties have an incentive to broaden their overall electoral appeal by making their candidate lists as diverse as possible".[12]

Even once elected, women tend to hold lesser valued cabinet ministries or similar positions.[5] These are sometimes described as "soft industries" and include health, education, and welfare. Far less often do women hold executive decision-making authority in more powerful domains or those that are associated with traditional notions of masculinity (such as finance and the military). Typically, the more powerful the institution, the less likely it is that women's interests will be represented. Additionally, in more autocratic nations, women are less likely to have their interests represented.[11] Many women attain political standing due to kinship ties, as they have male family members who are involved in politics.[5] These women tend to be from higher income, higher status families and thus may not be as focused on the issues faced by lower income families.

Additionally, women running for public office typically gain additional, unnecessary scrutiny on their private lives. For instance, fashion choices of politically active women are often picked apart by the media. In these "analyses" women rarely gain approval from those in the media, who usually say they either they show too much skin or too little, or perhaps that they either look too feminine or too masculine. Sylvia Bashevkin also notes that their romantic lives are often subject of much interest to the general population, perhaps more so than their political agenda or stances on issues.[13] She points out that those who "appear to be sexually active outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage run into particular difficulties, since they tend to be portrayed as vexatious vixens"[14] who are more interested in their private romantic lives than in their public responsibilities.[13] If they are in a monogamous, married relationship but have children, then their fitness for office becomes a question of how they manage being a politician while taking care of their children, something that a male politician would rarely, if ever, be asked about.

Challenges within political parties

In Canada, there is evidence that female politicians face gender stigma from male members of the political parties to which they belong which can undermine the ability of women to reach or maintain leadership roles. Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the official opposition of the National Assembly of Quebec, was the subject of a claim by Claude Pinard, a PQ "backbencher", that many Quebecers do not support a female politician: "I believe that one of her serious handicaps is the fact she's a woman [...] I sincerely believe that a good segment of the population won't support her because she's a woman".[15] A 2000 study that analyzed 1993 election results in Canada found that among "similarly situated women and men candidates", women actually had a small vote advantage. The study showed that neither voter turnout nor urban/rural constituencies were factors that help or hurt a female candidate, but "office-holding experience in non-political organizations made a modest contribution to women's electoral advantage".[16]

Bruce M. Hicks, an electoral studies researcher at Université de Montréal, states that evidence shows that female candidates begin with a head start in voters' eyes of as much as 10 per cent, and that female candidates are often more favorably associated by voters with issues like health care and education.[15] The electorate's perception that female candidates have more proficiency with traditional women's spheres such as education and health care presents a possibility that gender stereotypes can work in a female candidate's favor, at least among the electorate. In politics, however, Hicks points out that sexism is nothing new:

(Marois' issue) does reflect what has been going on for some time now: women in positions of authority have problems in terms of the way they manage authority [...] The problem isn't them, it's the men under them who resent taking direction from strong women. And the backroom dirty dialogue can come into the public eye.[15]

Within Quebec itself, Don McPherson pointed out that Pinard himself has enjoyed greater electoral success with Pauline Marois as party leader than under a previous male party leader, when Pinard failed to be elected in his riding. Demographically, Pinard's electoral riding is rural, with "relatively older, less-well educated voters".[17]

Women's suffrage movement

Suffragette demonstration, 1913, Washington, D.C.

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote in elections. Most countries enacted women's suffrage in the first half of the 20th century. In Europe, the last countries to enact it were Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In Switzerland, women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971;[18] but in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden women obtained the right to vote on local issues only in 1991, when the canton was forced to do so by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.[19] In Liechtenstein, women were given the right to vote by the women's suffrage referendum of 1984. Three prior referendums held in 1968, 1971 and 1973 had failed to secure women's right to vote.

After Saudi Arabia granted women the same voting rights as men have in December 2015, Vatican City became the only country in the world where women are fully and exclusively denied the right to vote.[20][21]

Mirror representation

Women's participation in formal politics is lower than men's throughout the world.[22] The argument put forth by scholars Jacquetta Newman and Linda White is that women's participation in the realm of high politics is crucial if the goal is to affect the quality of public policy. As such, the concept of mirror representation aims to achieve gender parity in public office. In other words, mirror representation says that the proportion of women in leadership should match the proportion of women in the population that they govern. Mirror representation is premised on the assumption that elected officials of a particular gender would likely support policies that seek to benefit constituents of the same gender.

Effects of mirror representation on public policy

A key critique is that mirror representation assumes that all members of a particular sex operate under the rubric of a shared identity, without taking into consideration other factors such as age, education, culture, or socioeconomic status.[23] However, proponents of mirror representation argue that women have a different relationship with government institutions and public policy than that of men, and therefore merit equal representation on this facet alone. This feature is based on the historical reality that women, regardless of background, have largely been excluded from influential legislative and leadership positions. As Sylvia Bashevkin notes, "representative democracy seems impaired, partial, and unjust when women, as a majority of citizens, fail to see themselves reflected in the leadership of their polity."[24] In fact, the issue of participation of Women in politics is of such importance that the United Nations has identified gender equality in representation (i.e. mirror representation) as a goal in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.[25] Besides seeking equality, the goal of mirror representation is also to recognize the significance of women's involvement in politics, which subsequently legitimizes said involvement.

There have been differing results between studies that looked at the significance of women's representation on actual policy outcomes. Though women in the United States are more likely to identify as feminists,[26] a 2014 study looking in the United States finds "no effect of gender of the mayor on policy outcomes."[27] A 2012 study finds mixed evidence that the share of female councilors in Sweden affected conditions for women citizens, such as women’s income, unemployment, health, and parental leave.[28] A 2015 study also in Sweden said that: "The findings show that female legislators defend feminist interests more than their male colleagues but that they only marginally respond to women's electoral preferences."[29] A 2016 study looking at African politicians finds "gender differences in policy priorities [to be] quite small on average, vary across policy domains and countries".[30]

Moroccan born female elected head of the Dutch Parliament
Khadija Arib at the Dutch Parliament

Social and cultural barriers to mirror representation

Unlike their male counterparts, female candidates are exposed to several barriers that may impact their desire to run for elected office. These barriers, which hinder mirror representation, include: sex stereotyping, political socialization, lack of preparation for political activity, and balancing work and family.

Sex stereotyping. Sex stereotyping assumes that masculine and feminine traits are intertwined with leadership. Hence, the bias leveled against women stems from the perception that femininity inherently produces weak leadership.[31] Due to the aggressive and competitive nature of politics, many insist that participation in elected office requires masculine traits.[32] Sex stereotyping is far from being a historical narrative. To be sure, the pressure is on women candidates (not men) to enhance their masculine traits in electoral campaigns for the purpose of wooing support from voters who identify with socially constructed gender roles.

Political socialization. Political socialization is the idea that, during childhood, people are indoctrinated into socially constructed norms of politics. In the case of women's representation in government, it says that sex stereotyping begins at an early age and affects the public's disposition on which genders are fit for public office. Socialization agents can include family, school, higher education, mass media, and religion.[33] Each of these agents plays a pivotal role in either fostering a desire to enter politics, or dissuading one to do so.

Generally, girls tend to see politics as a "male domain".[34] Newman and White suggest that women who run for political office have been "socialized toward an interest in and life in politics" and that "many female politicians report being born into political families with weak gender-role norms."[35]

Lack of preparation for political activity. An aftereffect of political socialization is that it determines how inclined women are to pursue careers that may be compatible with formal politics. Careers in law, business, education, and government, professions in which women happen to be minorities, are common occupations for those that later decide to enter public office.[35]

Balancing work and family. The work life balance is invariably more difficult for women, because they are generally expected by society to act as the primary caregivers for children and maintainers of the home. Due to these demands, it is assumed that women would choose to delay political aspirations until their children are older. Research has shown that new female politicians in Canada and the U.S. are older than their male counterparts.[36] Conversely, a woman may be pushed remain childless in order to seek political office.

Institutional barriers may also pose as a hindrance for balancing a political career and family. For instance, in Canada, Members of Parliament do not contribute to Employment Insurance; therefore, they are not entitled to paternity benefits.[37] Such lack of parental leave would undoubtedly be a reason for women to delay seeking electoral office. Furthermore, mobility plays a crucial role in the work-family dynamic. Elected officials are usually required to commute long distances to and from their respective capital cities, which can be a deterrent for women seeking political office.

Policies to increase women's participation

The United Nations has identified six avenues by which female participation in politics and government may be strengthened. These avenues are: equalization of educational opportunities, quotas for female participation in governing bodies, legislative reform to increase focus on issues concerning women and children, financing gender-responsive budgets to equally take into account the needs of men and women, increasing the presence of sex-disaggregated statistics in national research/data, and furthering the presence and agency of grassroots women's empowerment movements.[3]


Women with formal education (at any level) are more likely to delay marriage and subsequent childbirth, be better informed about infant and child nutrition, and ensure childhood immunization. Children of mothers with formal education are better nourished and have higher survival rates.[3] Education is a vital tool for any person in society to better themselves in their career path, and equalization of educational opportunities for boys and girls may take the form of several initiatives:

Mark P. Jones, in reference to Norris's Legislative Recruitment, states that: "Unlike other factors that have been identified as influencing the level of women's legislative representation, such as a country's political culture and level of economic development, institutional rules are relatively easy to change".[41]

In an article about the exclusion of Women from politics in southern Africa, Amanda Gouws said "The biggest hurdles to overcome for women are still on the local level where both men and women are often recruited from the communities and have limited political skills".[42] The level of education in these local governments or, for that matter, the people in those positions of power, are substandard.

One example of the hurdles women face in receiving good education comes from Beijing. "Most women who attended the NGO Forums accompanying the UN conferences, which are for government delegations (though increasingly many governments include activists and NGO members among their official delegates), were middle-class educated women from INGOS, donors, academics, and activists".[43] Lydia Kompe, a well-known South African activist, was one of these rural women. She noted that she felt overwhelmed and completely disempowered. In the beginning, she did not think she could finish her term of office because of her lack of education.[42] Manisha Desai explains that: "There is an inequality simply around the fact that the UN system and its locations say a lot about the current focus of those systems, such positions being in the US and Western Europe allow easier access to those women in the area.[43] It is also important to note that institutions affect the cultural propensity to elect women candidates in different ways in different parts of the world."[12]

The study of the history of women's representation has been a major contribution in helping scholars view such concepts. Ph.D. Andrew Reynolds states: "historical experience often leads to gender advancement, and political liberalization enables women to mobilize within the public sphere".[12] He argues that we will see a larger number of women in higher office positions in established democracy than in democracies that are developing, and "the more illiberal a state is, the fewer women will be in positions of power".[12] As countries open education systems to women, and more women participate in historically male dominated fields, it is possible to see a shift in political views regarding women in government.


Further information: All-women shortlists, a UK policy for electoral gender-parity
Example of a TRS ballot papers

Quotas are explicit requirements on the amount of women in political positions.[40] "Gender quotas for the election of legislators have been used since the late 1970s by a few political parties (via the party charter) in a small number of advanced industrial democracies; such examples would be like Germany and Norway".[41] Andrew Reynolds says there is "an increasing practice in legislatures for the state, or the parties themselves, to utilize formal or informal quota mechanisms to promote women as candidates and MPs".[12] The statistics surrounding quota systems have been examined thoroughly by academia.

Types of quotas include:


Quotas may be utilized during different stages of the political nomination/selection process to address different junctures at which women may be inherently disadvantaged:[40]

Quota usage can have marked effects on female representation in governance. In 1995, Rwanda ranked 24th in terms of female representation, and jumped to 1st in 2003 after quotas were introduced. Similar effects can be seen in Argentina, Iraq, Burundi, Mozambique, and South Africa, for example.[40] Of the top-ranked 20 countries in terms of female representation in government, 17 of these countries utilize some sort of quota system to ensure female inclusion. Though such inclusion is mainly instituted at the national level, there have been efforts in India to addresses female inclusion at the subnational level, through quotas for parliamentary positions.[44]

With quotas drastically changing the number of female representatives in political power, a bigger picture unravels. Though countries are entitled to regulate their own laws, the quota system helps explain social and cultural institutions and their understandings and overall view of women in general. "At first glance, these shifts seem to coincide with the adoption of candidate gender quotas around the globe as quotas have appeared in countries in all major world regions with a broad range of institutional, social, economic and cultural characteristics".[45]

Quotas have been quite useful in allowing women to gain support and opportunities when attempting to achieve seats of power, but some see this as a wrongdoing. Drude Dahlerup and Lenita Freidenvall argue this in their article "Quotas as a ‘Fast Track' to Equal Representation for Women" by stating: "From a liberal perspective, quotas as a specific group right conflict with the principle of equal opportunity for all. Explicitly favoring certain groups of citizens, i.e. women, means that not all citizens (men) are given an equal chance to attain a political career".[46] Dahlerup and Freidenvall claim that even though quotas create theoretical imbalance in opportunity for men and that they necessarily break the concept of "classical liberal notion of equality",[46] quotas are almost required to bring the relation of women in politics to a higher state, whether that is through equal opportunity or just equal results.[46] "According to this understanding of women's under-representation, mandated quotas for the recruitment and election of female candidates, possibly also including time-limit provisions, are needed".[46]


There have been numerous occasions where equal legislation has benefited the overall progression of women equality on a global scale. Though women have entered legislation, the overall representation within higher ranks of government is not being established. "Looking at ministerial positions broken down by portfolio allocation, one sees a worldwide tendency to place women in the softer sociocultural ministerial positions rather than in the harder and politically more prestigious positions of economic planning, national security, and foreign affairs, which are often seen as stepping-stones to national leader ship".[12]

Legislative agendas, some pushed by female political figures, may focus on several key issues to address ongoing gender disparities:


Sex-responsive budgets address the needs and interests of different individuals and social groups, maintaining awareness of sexual equality issues within the formation of policies and budgets. Such budgets are not necessarily a 50–50 male-female split, but accurately reflect the needs of each sex (such as increased allocation for women's reproductive health.[50] Benefits of gender-responsive budgets include:

A sex-responsive budget may also work to address issues of unpaid care work and caring labor gaps.[50]

Research/data improvements

Current research which uses sex-aggregated statistics may underplay or minimize the quantitative presentation of issues such as maternal mortality, violence against women, and girls' school attendance.[51] Sex-disaggregated statistics are lacking in the assessment of maternal mortality rates, for example. Prior to UNICEF and UNIFEM efforts to gather more accurate and comprehensive data, 62 countries had no recent national data available regarding maternal mortality rates.[52] Only 38 countries have sex-disaggregated statistics available to report frequency of violence against women.[53] 41 countries collect sex-disaggregated data on school attendance, while 52 countries assess sex-disaggregated wage statistics.[53]

Though the representation has become a much larger picture, it is important to notice the inclination of political activity emphasizing women over the years in different countries. "Although women's representation in Latin America, Africa, and the West progressed slowly until 1995, in the most recent decade, these regions show substantial growth, doubling their previous percentage".[9]

Researching politics on a global scale does not just reinvent ideas of politics, especially towards women, but brings about numerous concepts. Sheri Kunovich and Pamela Paxton research method, for example, took a different path by studying "cross-national" implications to politics, taking numerous countries into consideration. This approach helps identify research beforehand that could be helpful in figuring out commodities within countries and bringing about those important factors when considering the overall representation of women. "At the same time, we include information about the inclusion of women in the political parties of each country".[10] Research within gender and politics has taken a major step towards a better understanding of what needs to be better studied. Dr. Mona L. Krook states: These kinds of studies help establish that generalizing countries together is far too limiting to the overall case that we see across countries and that we can take the information we gain from these studies that look at countries separately and pose new theories as to why countries have the concepts they do; this helps open new reasons and thus confirms that studies need to be performed over a much larger group of factors.[54] Authors and researchers such as Mala Htun and Laurel Weldon also state that single comparisons of established and developed countries is simply not enough but is also surprisingly hurtful to the progress of this research, they argue that focusing on a specific country "tends to duplicate rather than interrogate" the overall accusations and concepts we understand when comparing political fields.[55] They continue by explaining that comparative politics has not established sex equality as a major topic of discussion among countries.[55] This research challenges the current standings as to what needs to be the major focus in order to understand gender in politics.

Grassroots women's empowerment movements

The lady in the case, an example of how some have interpreted women's involvement in government https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/The_lady_in_the_case.jpg

Women's informal collectives are crucial to improving the standard of living for women worldwide. Collectives can address such issues as nutrition, education, shelter, food distribution, and generally improved standard of living.[56] Empowering such collectives can increase their reach to the women most in need of support and empowerment. Though women's movements have a very successful outcome with the emphasis on gaining equality towards women, other movements are taking different approaches to the issue. Women in certain countries, instead of approaching the demands as representation of women as "a particular interest group", have approached the issue on the basis of the "universality of sex differences and the relation to the nation".[55] Htun and Weldon also bring up the point of democracy and its effects on the level of equality it brings. In their article, they explain that a democratic country is more likely to listen to "autonomous organizing" within the government. Women's movements would benefit from this the most or has had great influence and impact because of democracy, though it can become a very complex system.[55] When it comes to local government issues, political standings for women are not necessarily looked upon as a major issue. "Even civil society organizations left women's issues off the agenda. At this level, traditional leaders also have a vested interest that generally opposes women's interests".[42] Theorists believe that having a setback in government policies would be seen as catastrophic to the overall progress of women in government. Amanda Gouws says that "The instability of democratic or nominally democratic regimes makes women's political gains very vulnerable because these gains can be easily rolled back when regimes change. The failure to make the private sphere part of political contestation diminishes the power of formal democratic rights and limits solutions to gender inequality".[42]

Case studies


A 1995 Brazilian gender quota was extended first to city councilor positions in 1996, then extended to candidates of all political legislative positions by 1998.[57] By 1998, 30% of political candidates had to be women, with varied results in terms of the gender balance of the officials ultimately elected. Though the percentage of national legislature seats occupied by women dropped in the initial years following the passage of the quota law, the percentage has since risen (from 6.2% pre-quota, to 5.7% in 1998, to 8.9% in 2006). However, Brazil has struggled with the quota law in several respects:


The Finnish national quota law, introduced in 1995, mandates that among all indirectly elected public bodies (at both a national and a local level), neither sex in the governing body can be under 40%.[58] The 1995 laws was a reformed version of a similar 1986 law. Unlike other countries' quota laws, which affect party structure or electoral candidate lists, the Finnish law addresses indirectly elected bodies (nominated by official authorities)—the law does not address popularly elected bodies. The Finnish law heavily emphasizes local municipal boards and other subnational institutions. From 1993 (pre-quota law) to 1997 (post-quota law), the proportion of women on municipal executive boards increased from 25% to 45%. The quota law also affected gender segregation in local governance: before the passage of the law, there had been a gender imbalance in terms of female overrepresentation in "soft-sector" boards (those concerned with health, education, etc.) and female "underrepresentation" in "hard-sector" boards (those concerned with economics and technology). In 1997, the boards were balanced horizontally. However, areas not subject to quota laws continue to be imbalanced. In 2003, it was determined that only 16% of the chairs of municipal executive boards are female—chair positions in this area are not quota-regulated.[59] Presidential elections were held in Finland on 16 January 2000, with a second round on 6 February;[60] the result was a victory for Tarja Halonen of the Social Democratic Party, who became the country's first female President.


The gender quotas implemented across parties in Germany in the 1990s serve as a natural experiment for the effect of sub-national party political gender quotas on women participation. Davidson-Schmich (2006) notes, "the German case provides the variance needed to explain the successful (or failed) implementation of these political party quotas".[61] Germany's sixteen state legislatures, the Länder, feature a variety of party systems and varied numbers of potential female candidates. Germany is rated highly in its gender gap, but is an example of a developed country with a low percentage of female leadership in politics. Davidson-Schmich's study shows that there are many factors that influence how effective a political quota for women will be. Because Germany's quotas cover culturally diverse areas, Davidson-Schmich was able to see which cities best responded to the increase in women running for office. In her bivariate study, the quota was more successful when the city had a PR electoral system, when more women held inner-party and local political offices, and when there were more women in state-level executive offices. The quota was less successful in rural areas, areas with a large number of Catholic voters, electoral systems with a preferential system, in extremely competitive party systems, and with greater rates of legislative turnover. In her multivariate study of these regions, however, Davidson-Schmich narrowed these factors down even further to the most significant variables of: Catholicism and agricultural economics (Davidson-Schmich, 2006, p. 228). This is very intriguing, and as she explains, "the success of voluntary gender quotas in the German states hinged not on the political structure of these Lander, but rather the willingness of within the system to act on the opportunities inherent in these structures" (Davidson-Schmich, 2006, p. 228). Social factors and inherent gender discrimination are more important in the success of a female political quota than the structure of the quota itself.


Further information: Women in India

In an effort to increase women's participation in politics in India, a 1993 constitutional amendment mandated that a randomly selected third of leadership positions at every level of local government be reserved for women.[62] These political reservation quotas randomly choose one third of cities to implement a women-only election.[63] In these cities, parties are forced to either give a ticket to a women candidate or choose to not run in those locations. Due to the randomized selection of cities who must enforce the reservation for women each election year, some cities have implemented the quota multiple times, once or never. This addresses the political discrimination of women at various levels: parties are forced to give women the opportunity to run, the women candidates are not disadvantaged by a male incumbent or general biases for male over female leadership, and the pool of women candidates is increased because of the guaranteed opportunity for female participation.[63] The effects of the quota system in India have been studied by various researchers. In Mumbai, it was found that the probability of a women winning office conditional on the constituency being reserved for women in the previous election is approximately five times the probability of a women winning office if the constituency had not been reserved for women".[63] Furthermore, that even when the mandates are withdrawn, women were still able to keep their positions of leadership. Given the opportunity to get a party ticket, create a platform and obtain the experience to run for a political position, women are much more likely to be able to overcome these hurdles in the future, even without the quota system in place.[63] The quota system has also affected policy choices. Research in West Bengal and Rajasthan has indicated that reservation affected policy choices in ways that seem to better reflect women's preferences.[64] In terms of voter's perception of female leaders, reservation did not improve the implicit or explicit distaste for female leaders—in fact, the relative explicit preference for male leaders was actually strengthened in villages that had experienced a quota. However, while reservation did not make male villagers more sympathetic to the idea of female leaders, it caused them to recognize that women could lead. Moreover, the reservation policy significantly improved women's prospects in elections open to both sexes, but only after two rounds of reservation within the same village.[65] Political reservation for women has also impacted the aspirations and educational attainment for teenage girls in India.[66]


Japan ranks 127 in the world for the number of women in national parliamentary worldwide as of March 2014, which is lower than that of last year in which Japan ranked at 122.[67] As of February 28, 2013, there are a total of 39 women in the House of Representatives out of 479 incumbents.[68] Since the revision of the Meiji constitution in 1947, Japanese women have been given the right to vote and the new version of the constitution also allows for a more democratic form of government. The first female cabinet member came about in 1960. Masa Nakayama was appointed as the Minister of Health and Welfare in Japan. Until 1996, the electoral system for the House of Representatives was based on a single non-transferable vote in multimember districts. That system was not conducive to women's advancement in public office because it promoted contestation between competing parties and rival candidates within the same party. The new electoral system was introduced to reduce the excessive role of money and corruption in elections, which ultimately helped women who were running for public office.[69] Aside from the electoral system, a major factor for a successful outcome of an election is the kōenkai. It is an organization that supports individual politicians financially. The obstacle posed for women with the kōenkai is that its support is usually inherited by candidates from their relatives or bosses, and because of the culture, it is usually men who inherit or gain support for their positions.[70] By 1996, Japan adopted the new electoral system for the House of Representatives that combines single-seat districts with proportional representation. Out of 480 seats, 300 are contested in single seat constituencies. The other 180 members are elected through allocations to an electoral list submitted by each party. Candidates who lack a strong support system are listed on a party's proportional representation section. "In the 2009 election, only two of eight female LDP members were elected from a single-seat district, which indicates that few female candidates have enough political support to win a single-seat election".[71] While changes in the electoral process have made positions of public office more accessible to women, the actual participation of women in the Diet remains relatively low. As for the future of women in politics in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced in his speech at the Japan National Press Club on April 19, 2013, that a major goal of his national growth strategy is, "having no less than 30 per cent of leadership positions in all areas of society filled by women by 2020." [72]


Lebanese women marching for their rights

Basically, Lebanese women are considered to have more rights and freedom compared to other women in the Gulf and Middle East. Women in Lebanon are able to dress more liberally and move around with relative ease in certain parts of the country, unlike other countries in the region. Lebanese women enjoy almost equal civil rights as men. However, due to the large number of officially recognized religions in Lebanon, Lebanese family matters are governed by at least 15 personal statute codes. Lebanese women have legal protection that varies depending on their religion. In Muslim families, marriageable age can be as young as 9 for women and polygamy is allowed. Muslim women do not normally marry Christian or Jewish men, for social and religious reasons.

Local and regional NGOs have helped to increase awareness of violence against women in Lebanon.[6][7] Government policies regarding this are poor however, and attempts to improve this area have been met with resistance.[8] Lebanon's laws do not recognize the concept of spousal rape,[2] and attempt to add this to law have been attacked by Lebanese clerics.[9]


No political gender quotas exist in Romania, however the Equality Act of 2002 provides that public authorities and institutions, political parties, employers' organizations and trade unions must provide an equitable and balanced representation of men and women at all decisional levels.[73] Following the 2012 elections, women gained only 11.5% of seats in the Parliament, up from 4.9% in 1990 and compared to a world average of 20%.[74] On the other hand, women are well represented in the central public administration, including the Government, with more than half of decision-making positions held by women, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Ministry of Labor.[75]


Since the election of 2008, Rwanda is the first country to have a majority of women in legislature.[76][77] Rwanda is an example of a developing country that does not have spectacular gender equality in other aspects of society, but radically increased its female leadership because of national conflict. After the genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days, women in legislature went from 18% women before the conflict to 56% in 2008. Two pieces of legislature enabled and supported women into leadership positions: the Security Council Resolution of 1325 urged women to take part in the post-conflict reconstruction and the 2003 Rwandan Constitution included a mandated quota of 30% reserved seats for all women in legislature. Of the 24 women who gained seats directly after the quota implementation in 2003, many joined political parties and chose to run again. Though it took almost 100 years, after implementing the gender quotas, Rwanda reached levels of female representation which are amongst the highest in the world.[78] Once again we can see the quota working as an "incubator" for driving women's participation in leadership. It is argued that the increase of female leadership in Rwanda also led to an increase in gender equality. World Focus (2009) writes, "Rwandan voters have elected women in numbers well beyond the mandates dictated by the post-genocide constitution.[79] And though women in Rwanda still face discrimination, female legislators have influenced major reforms in banking and property laws." A parliamentary women's caucus in Rwanda (FFRP) has also "led a successful effort to pass ground-breaking legislation on gender-based violence in part by involving and garnering support from their male colleagues".[77] While some researchers see reform, others see dominant party tactics. Hassim (2009) writes, "It could be argued that in both countries [Uganda and Rwanda] women's representation provided a kind of alibi for the progressive, ‘democratic' nature of new governments that at their core nevertheless remained authoritarian, and increasingly so".[80] Rwanda shows that increased participation by women in democracy is conducive to progress in gender equal legislature and reform, but research must be careful not to immediately relate increased gender equality in politics to increased gender equality in policy.


In 2007, Spain passed the Equality Law, requiring a "principle of balanced presence" by mandating political parties to include 40–60% of each sex among electoral candidates.[81] This law is unique in that surpasses the 40% parity figure established by the European Commission in 1998; a figure which (according to the EC) indicates "parity democracy." Though there is anecdotal of increasing female representation on a local and national level, there has not yet been national-level data to quantitatively bolster this assertion.

United States

The number of women in the U.S. Congress (both the House and Senate) from 1977–2006.

In the United States no political gender quotas exist, mandatory or voluntary. The proportion of women in leadership roles in the Senate, House of Representatives, and Presidential positions reflect this. The current position of women representation in the U.S. is precarious. In the elections of 2012, the greatest number of female incumbents ever were up for re-election in the Senate. Ten female Democrats, six of them incumbents, were nominated, with one Republican nominated for Senate ran for office.[82] Steinhauer notes that in Congress, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, women historically and currently lack representation. The results from the 2012 election could greatly affect female representation in the Senate: "If all or most of the incumbent women prevail in 2012, and even just a few women of the many recruited win new seats, women would reach an all-time high in the Senate. But the loss of just one female Senate seat with no replacements would cost women ground in the Senate for the first time since 1978, when the number of women in the Senate went to one from two".[82] With the 2012 elections women Senators could either make the highest percentage of seats or the lowest proportion since 1978.

The United States is one of the shrinking number of industrialized democracies to not have yet had a woman as its leader. Foreign female prime ministers include Canada's Kim Campbell, the UK's Margaret Thatcher, Australia's Julia Gillard, Israel's Golda Meir, and France's Édith Cresson. Other female national leaders include Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and President Isabel Perón of Argentina. Even Pakistan and Turkey, countries often viewed as particularly male-dominated have had female prime ministers. Therefore, the United States, a country which promotes the rights of women and girls around the world, is conspicuous for having only male presidents.

In popular media in the United States, female politicians see some focus on their appearance; more so than their male counterparts. A 2011 feminist journal by Carlin and Winfrey focuses on the portrayal of female politicians in the media. According to the journal, the way media perceives women and men is very distinct in the language they chose to use. The language chosen to talk or describe other people can either hurt or help them in a political campaign. As a result of women being talked about in sexist terms in can greatly affect her reputation and credibility.[83] The journal claims the media uses terms that indicative of women not being valued as individuals. "This is especially true when women are described using metaphors that draw on animals, children, or food. Animal terms focus on the appearance and sexuality of young women (foxy), and as women grow older, or are seen as too aggressive, they may be called barracuda, old bat, shrew, or cow."[83] Females tend to have less issue coverage than males (due to fewer female politicians), but tend to have more coverage on things such as their appearance than male politicians.[83] Men candidates don't get coverage on what kind of suite they are wearing or who designed it. This is due to innate purpose of the media to appeal to demands of their audiences for sales - in this case the popular female focus on fashion that dominates the media. Studies done on women candidates have shown that women receive more attention in the media for factors such as appearance, clothes, size, and emotional state[83]". In 2008, campaigns for both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were taken in great interest by fashion articles read mostly by women. The journal claims that Clinton was perceived as masculine and Palin was seen as feminine. "Palin's attractiveness resulted in frequent and varied references to her ‘‘sexiness; whereas, Clinton was viewed as not feminine enough in pantsuits that covered her ‘‘cankles (thick ankles).[83] Various newspapers covered on how Palin was part of beauty pageants and this really affected the seriousness of her campaign. They took Palin as a joke and various individuals began to state that this was a political campaign and not another beauty pageant. On the other hand Clinton was perceived as a "nut cracker" and "where boners go to die". Clinton's physical appearance and her choice of clothing, pantsuits over skirts and dresses, were the source of considerable ridicule.[83] Carlin and Winfrey believe that Clinton was not perceived as a sex symbol because she chose to wear pants over skirts, and also because she was older than Palin. Due to the smaller proportion of women who pursue political careers, there is greater pressure on female politicians to succeed. The importance of criticisms about "cankles" and the like on public popularity in a presidential election is disputed. Many think these criticisms are neglegible, but Carlin and Winfrey believe this criticisms have a large effect. This analysis done on both Senator Clinton's and Governor Palin's campaign concluded that media coverage had a vast responsibility on how both women were viewed due to their gender stereotypes and language used to "influence the public",[83] though others argue that the style of media coverage is entirely the result of existing demand by the audience. There was national sample done that concluded that 51% of respondents believed that Americans were not ready for a women to be elected into high office.[84] 40% of those same individuals believed that women were still discriminated in all areas in societies including politics.[84]

Women in government office

Map showing countries which since independence have had (counting Governors-General as heads of state, but excluding monarchs):
  Female head of government[lower-alpha 1]
  Female head of state[85]
  Female head of state/government (combined)
  Female head of state and female head of government
Three former sovereign states (East Germany, Tannu Tuva, and Yugoslavia) have also had a female Head of State or Head of Government

Women in politics have historically been fewer in numbers in Western societies compared to men. Some women, however, have been politically elected to be heads of state and government.

Historic firsts for women in government

Some of the most prominent female leaders of world powers in recent decades were (listed by name then position):

Current women leaders of national governments

The following women leaders are currently in office as either the head of their nation's government or the head of state:

Date term began Title of office Name Country
22 November 2005ChancellorAngela MerkelGermany
16 January 2006PresidentEllen Johnson-SirleafLiberia
6 January 2009Prime MinisterSheikh HasinaBangladesh
12 July 2009 President Dalia GrybauskaitėLithuania
7 April 2011President Atifete JahjagaKosovo
25 February 2013President Park Geun-HyeSouth Korea
16 October 2013Prime MinisterErna SolbergNorway
20 January 2014PresidentCatherine Samba-PanzaCentral African Republic
22 January 2014Prime MinisterLaimdota StraujumaLatvia
11 March 2014PresidentMichelle BacheletChile (She previously served as President from 2006–2010)
4 April 2014PresidentMarie Louise Coleiro PrecaMalta
16 November 2015Prime MinisterBeata SzydloPoland
19 November 2014First MinisterNicola SturgeonScotland
18 February 2015PresidentKolinda Grabar-KitarovićCroatia
21 March 2015Prime MinisterSaara KuugongelwaNamibia-
20 May 2016President-electTsai Ing-wenTaiwan
13 July 2016Prime MinisterTheresa MayUnited Kingdom

Women as cabinet ministers

Women holding prominent cabinet posts have grown in numbers worldwide during the 20th and 21st centuries, and in recent years have increasingly held the top profile portfolios for their governments in non-traditional areas for women in government, such as national security and defense, finance, revenue and foreign relations.

Ministers of foreign affairs

The following women have held posts in recent years as ministers of foreign relations or the equivalent for their respective national governments:

Date term began Title of office Name Country
2007–08 and 2011–- Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis Cyprus
2008– -Rosemary Kobusingye MuseminariRwanda
2008– -Carolyn RodriguesGuyana
2008 -Eka Tkeshelashvili Georgia
2008- (Acting) Helen ClarkNew Zealand
2008–- Maxine McCleanBarbados
2008–- Antonella Mularoni San Marino
2009–13 -Dipu MoniBangladesh
2009 -Maria Adiato Diallo Nandigna Guinea-Bissau
2009–13Secretary of State Hillary ClintonUnited States
2009 -Patricia Isabel Rodas Baca Honduras
2009– -Aurelia Frick Liechtenstein
2009–- Maite Nkoana-Mashabane South Africa
2009–11- Sujata Koirala Nepal
2009–11 -Etta Banda Malawi
2009– -Naha Mint Mouknass Mauritania
2009– -Marie-Michele Rey Haiti
2009–- Louise Mushikiwabo Rwanda
2010–- Baroness Ashton of Upholland the European Union
2010 -(Acting) Rasa Juknevičienė Lithuania
2010–11 Minister of Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen Denmark
2010–11- Aminatou Djibrilla Maiga Touré Niger
2010–- María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar Colombia
2010–11 -(Acting) Vlora Çitaku Kosovo
2010–- Trinidad Jiménez García-Herrera Spain
2010–11 -Michèle Alliot-Marie France
2011–13- Hina Rabbani Khar Pakistan
2011 -(Acting) Erlinda F. Basilio Philippines
2011– -Yvette Sylla Madagascar
2013–14 -Emma Bonino Italy
2013– -Julie Bishop Australia
2013– -Dhunya Maumoon Maldives
2014– -Federica Mogherini Italy
2014–Minister of External AffairsSushma SwarajIndia
2014– -Margot Wallström Sweden
2014- -Retno Marsudi Indonesia
2015- -Susana Malcorra Argentina

Ministers of defense and national security

The following women have held posts in recent years as ministers of defense, national security or an equivalent for their respective national governments:

Date term began Title of office Name Country
2002-04 Minister of Defence Michelle BacheletChile
2005-10 Minister of Defence Nilda GarréArgentina
2006–07 Minister of Defence Viviane Blanlot SozaChile
2006–11Minister of Defense Cristina Fontes Lima Cape Verde
2007–09 Minister of DefenceVlasta ParkanováCzech Republic
2007 Minister of DefenceGuadalupe Larriva González Ecuador
2007 Minister of Defence Lorena Escudero DuránEcuador
2007 (Acting) Minister of DefenceMarina Pendeš Bosnia and Herzegovina
2007– Secretary General of Defence with Rank of Minister Ruth Tapia Roa Nicaragua
2007 Minister of DefenceYuriko Koike Japan
2007–09Minister of DefenceCécile Manorohanta Madagascar
2008– Minister of DefenceCarme Chacón i Piqueras Spain
2008–10Minister of DefenceElsa Maria Neto D'Alva Texeira de Barros Pinto São Tomé e Príncipe
2008– Minister of Veterans' AffairsJudith CollinsNew Zealand
2008– Associate Minister of Defence Heather RoyNew Zealand
2008– Minister of Disarmament and Arms ControlGeorgina te HeuheuNew Zealand
2008– Minister of DefenceLjubica Jelušič Slovenia
2008– Minister of DefenceRasa Juknevičienė Lithuania
2009– Secretary of Homeland SecurityJanet Napolitano United States
2009–12 Minister of Defence and Veterans' AffairsLindiwe Nonceba Sisulu South Africa
2009–11 Minister of DefenceBidhya Devi Bhandari Nepal
2009–11 Minister of DefenceAngélique NgomaGabon
2010–2011 Minister of DefenceGitte Lillelund Bech Denmark
2010(Acting) Minister of Defence and Security Lesego Motsumi Botswana
2010-13 Minister of Security Nilda GarréArgentina
2011 Minister of DefenceMaría Cecilia Chacón Chacón Bolivia
2012– Minister of Defence and Military VeteransNosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula South Africa
2012– Minister of DefenseJeanine Hennis-Plasschaert Netherlands
2013– Minister of DefenceMimi Kodheli Albania
2013– Minister of DefenceIne Marie Eriksen Søreide Norway
2013-15 Minister of Security María Cecilia RodríguezArgentina
2013– Minister of DefenceUrsula von der Leyen Germany
2014– Minister of DefenceRoberta Pinotti Italy
2015– Minister of DefenceMarise Payne Australia
2015– Minister of Security Patricia BullrichArgentina

Ministers of finance or revenue

The following women have held posts in recent years as ministers of finance, revenue, or an equivalent for their respective national governments:

Date term began Title of office Name Country
1990–91 Minister of Economy Zélia Cardoso de Mello Brazil
2005-10 Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani IndrawatiIndonesia
2005–07 Minister of Economy and Public Finances Felisa MiceliArgentina
2008–11 Minister of Economy and Competitiveness Fátima Maria Carvalho FialhoCapo Verde
2008–11 Minister of Finance Diana DragutinovićSerbia
2008– Minister for the National Investment Plan Verica KalanovićSerbia
2008 Minister of Finance Wilma Josefina Salgado Tamayo Ecuador
2008– Minister of Finance María Elsa Viteri Acaiturri Ecuador
2009– Minister of Economy Helena Nosolini Embalo Guinea-Bissau
2009– Chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisors Christina Romer United States
2009– Minister of Finance Clotilde Niragira Burundi
2009–11 Minister of Finance Syda Namirembe BumbaUganda
2009–11 Government Councillor of Finance and Economy Sophie Thevenoux Monaco
2009– Minister of Finance and Economy Elena Salgado Méndez Spain
2009– Minister of Finance Ingrida Simonytė Lithuania
2009– Minister of Economic Affairs Michelle Winklaar Aruba (Dutch External Territory)
2009–11 Minister of Finance Raya Haffar al-Hassan Lebanon
2010–11 Minister of Economy Lamia AssiSyria
2010– Minister of Economic Policy Katiuska Kruskaya King Mantilla Ecuador
2010– Chairperson of Economic Planning Council Christina Y. LiuTaiwan
2010– Economic Secretary to the Treasury Justine Greening United Kingdom
2010– Minister of Economic and Stability Development Vera Kobalia Georgia
2010– Minister of Economy Darja Radić Slovenia
2010–11 Minister of Finance Wonnie Boedhoe Suriname
2010–13 Minister of Finance Penny Wong Australia
2010– Federal Councillor of Finance Eveline Widmer-Sclumpf Switzerland
2010– Minister for Economy Kim Wilson Bermuda (British Dependent Territory)
2010 (Acting) Minister of Finance Elfreda Tamba Liberia
2010– Finance Minister Martina Dalić Croatia
2011 (Acting) Minister of Finance Dinara Shaydieva Kyrgyzstan
2011– Federal Minister of Finance Maria Fekter Austria
2011– Minister of National Revenue Gail Shea Canada
2011–2014 Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen Finland
2011– Minister of Budget Valérie PécresseFrance
2011– Minister of Economy and Finances Adidjatou Mathys Benin
2011– Minister of Budget, Finances, Taxes, Numeric Economy Sonia Backès Nouvelles Caledonie (French External Territory)
2011– Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Maria Kiwanuka Uganda
2011– Minister of the Treasury Anne Craine Isle of Man
2011–2014 Minister of Economy Margrethe Vestager Denmark
2012–2013 Minister of Finance Katrín Júlíusdóttir Iceland
2013– Minister of State and Finance Maria Luís Albuquerque Portugal
2013– Minister of Finance Siv Jensen Norway
2014– Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson Sweden

Comparing women's integration into branches of government

Executive branch

Women have been notably in fewer numbers in the executive branch of government. The gender gap has been closing, however, albeit slowly[11] The first women other than monarchs to hold head of state positions were in socialist countries. The first was Khertek Anchimaa-Toka of the Tuvan People's Republic from 1940–1944, followed by Sükhbaataryn Yanjmaa of the Mongolian People's Republic 1953–1954 and Soong Ching-ling of the People's Republic of China from 1968–1972 and 1981.

Following the socialist countries, the Nordic countries have been forerunners in including women in the executive branch. The second cabinet Brundtland (1986–1989) was historical in that 8 out of 18 cabinet members were women, and in 2007 the second cabinet Stoltenberg (2005–present) was more than 50% women.

In 2003, Finland had a historical moment when all top leaders of the country were women and also represented different political parties: Social democrat Tarja Halonen was President, Riitta Uosukainen from National Coalition Party was Speaker of the Parliament and after the parliamentary elections of 2003 Anneli Jäätteenmäki from Center party was on her way to become the first female Prime Minister of Finland. By June 22, 2010 Mari Kiviniemi of the Centre Party was appointed the second female Prime Minister of Finland.

Between 2007 and 2011 the Finnish cabinet was 60% female, with a female Prime Minister from 2010 to 2011. Between 2014 and 2015 the Finnish cabinet was 59% female.

The present Danish government is a coalition between the Social Democrats, the Social-Liberal Party and the Socialist People's Party. All three parties have female leaders. Helle Thorning-Schmidt is Prime Minister.[86]

The world's first elected female president was Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland, whose term lasted from 1980 to 1996.

In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia became Africa's first elected female head of state.

Legislative branch

It was not until World War I and the first socialist revolutions that the first few women became members of governments. Alexandra Kollontai became the first female to hold a minister position, as the People's Commissar for Social Welfare in Soviet Russia in 1917.[87] Nina Bang, Danish Minister of Education from 1924–26, was the world's second full female cabinet minister.

The first female head of government was Evgenia Bosh, the Bolshevik military leader who held the People's Secretary of Internal Affairs position in the Ukraine People's Republic of the Soviets of Workers and Peasants from 1917–1918, which was responsible for executive functions.[88][89][90] Nevertheless, development was slow and it was not until the end of the 20th century that female ministers stopped being unusual.

The first government organization formed with the goal of women's equality was the Zhenotdel, in Soviet Russia.

According to a 2006 report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 16% of all parliament members in the world are female. In 1995, the United Nations set a goal of 30% female representation.[91] The current annual growth rate of women in national parliaments is about 0.5% worldwide. At this rate, gender parity in national legislatures will not be achieved until 2068.[3]

The top ten countries in terms of number of female parliamentary members are Rwanda with 56.3%, Sweden (47.0%), Cuba (43.2%), Finland (41.5%), the Netherlands (41.3%), Argentina (40.0%), Denmark (38.0%), Angola (37.3%), Costa Rica (36.8%), Spain (36.3%).[92] Cuba has the highest percentage for countries without a quota. In South Asia, Nepal is highest in the rank of women participation in politics with (33%).[93] Among East Asian countries, Taiwan has the highest percentage of women in Parliament (38.0%). In the United States in 2008, the New Hampshire State Senate became the first state legislature upper house to possess an elected female majority.

The United Kingdom and United States are roughly in line with the world average. The House of Lords has 139 women (19.7%), while there are 125 women (19.4%) in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

Local representation

There has been an increasing focus on women's representation at a local level.[5] Most of this research is focused on developing countries. Governmental decentralization often results in local government structures that are more open to the participation of women, both as elected local councilors and as the clients of local government services.[11] A 2003 survey conducted by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), a global network supporting inclusive local governments, found that the average proportion of women in local council was 15%. In leadership positions, the proportion of women was lower: for instance, 5% of mayors of Latin American municipalities are women.

According to a comparative study of women in local governments in East Asia and the Pacific, women have been more successful in reaching decision-making position in local governments than at the national level.[3] Local governments tend to be more accessible and have more available positions. Also, women's role in local governments may be more accepted because they are seen as an extension of their involvement in the community.

Indian panchayats

The local panchayat system in India provides an example of women's representation at the local governmental level.[5] The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in 1992 mandated panchayat elections throughout the country. The reforms reserved 33% of the seats for women and for castes and tribes proportional to their population. Over 700,000 women were elected after the reforms were implemented in April 1993.

See also


  1. Although the Peruvian constitution and the government itself state that the President is the Head of Government,[94][95] other sources name the President of the Council of Ministers as the head of government.[96]


  1. Baten, Jörg (2016). A History of the Global Economy. From 1500 to the Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 244,245 [Figure 17.4]. ISBN 9781107507180.
  2. http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/world.htm
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 UNICEF. 2006. "Equality in Politics and Government" and "Reaping the Double Dividend of Gender Equality," in The State of the World Children 2007, pp. 51–87. New York: The United Nations Children's Fund. http://www.unicef.org/sowc07/report/report.php
  4. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/gender.shtml
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Basu, Amriyta; Jayal, Naraja Gopal; Nussbaum, Martha; Tambiah, Yasmin. 2003. Essays on Gender and Governance. India: Human Development Resource Center, United Nations Development Programme.
  6. "Women in Parliaments: World and Regional Averages". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  7. Baten, Jörg (2016). A History of the Global Economy. From 1500 to the Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 244,245. ISBN 9781107507180.
  8. 1 2 "Women in Parliaments: World Classification". Inter-Parliamentary Union. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  9. 1 2 Paxton, Pamela; Melanie M. Hughes; Sheri L. Kunovich (August 2007). "Gender in Politics". Annual Review of Sociology. 33 (1): 263–284. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131651.
  10. 1 2 3 Paxton, Pamela; Sheri L. Kunovich (2005). "Pathways to Power: The Role of Political Parties in Women's National Political Representation". American Journal of Sociology. 111 (2): 505–552. doi:10.1086/444445.
  11. 1 2 3 4 United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). 2005. Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World. France: UNRISD.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Reynolds, Andrew (1999). "Women in the Legislastures and Executives of the World: Knocking at the Highest Glass Ceiling". World Politics. 51 (4): 547–572. doi:10.1017/50043887100009254.
  13. 1 2 Bashevkin, Sylvia (2009), "Vexatious Vixens", in Bashevkin, Sylvia, Women, Power, Politics: The Hidden Story of Canada's Unfinished Democracy, Oxford University Press, pp. 86–89, ISBN 9780195431704
  14. Bashevkin, Sylvia (2009), "Vexatious Vixens", in Bashevkin, Sylvia, Women, Power, Politics: The Hidden Story of Canada's Unfinished Democracy, Oxford University Press, p. 88, ISBN 9780195431704
  15. 1 2 3 Banerjee, Sidhartha (November 2, 2011). "PQ woes prompt debate in Quebec about whether women get a fair deal in politics". The Canadian Press. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  16. Black, J.H. & Erickson, L. (March 2003). "Women candidates and voter bias: do women politicians need to be better?". Electoral Studies. 22 (1): 81–100. doi:10.1016/S0261-3794(01)00028-2. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  17. McPherson, Don (November 3, 2011). "Pauline Marois's troubles aren't because of sexism". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  18. "The Long Way to Women's Right to Vote in Switzerland: a Chronology". History-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
  19. "United Nations press release of a meeting of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), issued on 14 January 2003". Un.org. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
  20. Pearson, Michael (December 12, 2015). "Polls open in Saudi Arabia, first time women allowed to vote". Retrieved 31 October 2016 via CNN.
  21. Holter, Lauren (August 20, 2015). "There's 1 Country Where Women Can't Vote & It's Seriously Time For It To Break With "Tradition"". Retrieved October 31, 2016 via Bustle.com.
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