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Women in parliament

While more women than ever are being elected to parliaments around the world, equality is still a long way off, and current progress is far too slow. Most parliaments are still heavily male-dominated, and some have no women MPs at all.  Even where women are present in greater numbers, glass ceilings often remain firmly in place.

Women running for election face numerous challenges—including addressing discrimination or cultural beliefs that limit women’s role in society, balancing private, family and political life, gaining support from political parties and securing campaign funding. They may also face violence, harassment and intimidation. Some women may even be dissuaded from running for office, leaving men in the positions of power.

Change is possible if political commitment and adequate legal and policy frameworks are in place to provide a level playing field for both women and men. We support policies aimed at improving women’s access to party backing and candidate lists, including electoral reforms or the development of temporary special measures such as quotas. We also support initiatives aimed at changing mentalities and building an environment that is conducive to a greater role for women in parliaments.

Our standards and guidelines give parliaments clear goals and examples of best practice. We can provide technical assistance and training to promote equality and strengthen legal frameworks where necessary.

Our research provides invaluable statistics and makes us a global reference point for women in parliament. We have an extensive database on women MPs and on women’s caucuses. We also run a database on gender electoral quotas, in partnership with International IDEA and Stockholm University.

We believe in the tremendous impact women MPs can have when combining their strengths, energies and experiences. We were the first organization to provide platforms for women MPs to meet and exchange ideas and experiences at a global level, and now provide unique ways for them to work together to draw more women into politics and help their parliaments become gender-sensitive institutions. We also give all MPs the chance to learn more about the status of women in their own and other regions, and boost their work in the interest of equality.

We also have databases on women’s parliamentary caucuses  and specialized parliamentary committees on gender equality.

The IPU partners with International IDEA and Stockholm University in running a global database on gender electoral quotas, which provides country-specific data on existing mechanisms to ensure women’s participation in parliaments.

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Women speakers have shaped their parliaments, both in the way they operate and in their outputs. Photo: © IPU
While the number of women in parliaments grew at a remarkably slow pace throughout the 20th century, that of women presiding over parliament has grown at an even slower pace. The Austrian parliament was the only one to have a