Women’s representation in political decision-making continues to increase but at a sluggish pace according to new data presented in the 2020 edition of the IPU‑UN Women map of Women in Politics. The data’s publication coincides with the 25-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the world’s most comprehensive agenda for gender equality.
The IPU-UN Women map presents global rankings for women in parliament and government positions as of 1 January 2020. It shows all-time highs for the number of countries with women heads of state and/or heads of government, and for the global share of women ministers, Speakers of parliament and parliamentarians, as compared to previous map editions. Still, 25 years after Beijing, women are underrepresented across all levels of power.
“It is impossible to predict when women will have equal opportunities in politics as we cannot see a clear trend,” IPU President Gabriela Cuevas said. “But what is absolutely clear is that current efforts are not enough, and some countries are actually going backwards. We cannot afford to wait another four generations before we reach gender parity. It is time to translate words into action and to start demanding commitments and legal changes. We must engage with the 46,000 members of parliament in the world to eradicate all discriminatory legislation to ensure that women can enter politics.”
“We have created a world where women are squeezed into just 25 per cent of the space – in parliaments and in other critical decision-making spaces,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Yet we know that more women in high-level political decision-making positions leads to policies that benefit the whole of society. Women and girls are radically impatient for change and we are calling on leaders and parliamentarians to take the necessary actions to ensure their voices are heard and their priorities reflected.”
Women heads of state and government
Just over ten per cent of countries in the world are led by a woman today. Twenty countries now have women heads of state and government – up from 19 countries in 2019. As of 1 January 2020, 6.6 per cent of elected heads of state are women (10 out of 152) and 6.2 per cent of heads of government (12 out of 193); in two of these countries (Bolivia and Switzerland), the head of state and government is the same.
However, progress in women’s representation among world leaders continues to lag, by comparison: only eight women leaders were in power when the IPU and UN Women launched one of the first editions of the map in 2005.
Today, more than half of women heads of state and government are in Europe. Nearly all governments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway) are headed by a woman, with Sweden being the exception.
Three women heads of state or government are in power in the Americas, which is half the number compared with 2015. The region experienced a significant decline in the number of women heads of state or government between 2015, when there were six, and 2017 when the number dropped to only one.
There are three women heads of state or government in Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal and Singapore), one in Africa (Ethiopia) and one in the Pacific (New Zealand).
Except for Israel, no other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have had a woman head of state or government.
Women in government
There has been an encouraging trend of more governments with gender-balanced cabinets: women now account for 50 per cent or more ministerial positions in 14 countries, up from 9 in 2019. An additional 16 countries have 40 per cent or more women ministers.
Europe and the Americas are the leaders when it comes to having gender parity in cabinets. In two countries, women hold over 60 per cent of ministerial seats (Spain and Finland). Finland stands out as the only country to have both gender parity in cabinet and a woman head of government.
Overall, the proportion of women ministers is at an all-time high at 21.3 per cent (851 out of 4003), which is 7.1 percentage points higher than in 2005, when only 14.2 per cent of ministers were women.
In the 190 countries for which data is available, men continue to dominate certain ministerial portfolios. For example, there are only 25 finance / budget portfolios and 22 defence portfolios led by women ministers.
Conversely, despite some shifts in recent years, women ministers are still most likely to oversee family and social affairs, followed closely by environment and energy portfolios.
For the first time since 2015, the number of countries without women’s representation in executive cabinets has dropped into single digits, with nine countries remaining without women ministers (Brunei Darussalam, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam).
Women Speakers of parliament
Women now serve as parliamentary Speakers in nearly all regions of the world. Only the Pacific does not currently have a woman presiding officer of parliament.
The share of women parliamentary Speakers overall is 20.5 per cent in 2020 (57 out of 278 presiding officer posts across 192 countries). This is double the share of women Speakers 25 years ago when the Beijing Conference took place.
However, the share of women Deputy Speakers decreased by 3 percentage points to 25.3 per cent compared to 2019.
In 2019, seven countries appointed women Speakers of parliament for the first time (Andorra, Belarus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malawi and Togo).
The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 179 national Member Parliaments and 13 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced and more diverse. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world. Twice a year, the IPU convenes over 1,500 parliamentary delegates and partners in a world assembly, bringing a parliamentary dimension to global governance, including the work of the United Nations and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
UN Women is the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.
UN Women supports UN Member States as they set global standards for achieving gender equality and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, programmes and services needed to ensure that the standards are effectively implemented and truly benefit women and girls worldwide.
 Bangladesh (HG), Barbados (HG), Belgium (HG), Bolivia (Plurinational State of) (HS/HG), Denmark (HG), Estonia (HS), Ethiopia (HS), Finland (HG), Georgia (HS), Germany (HG), Iceland (HG), Nepal (HS), New Zealand (HG), Norway (HG), San Marino (HS), Serbia (HG), Singapore (HS), Slovakia (HS), Switzerland (HS/HG), Trinidad and Tobago (HS)