How many women are in your parliament?

Intro text

Over the last 25 years, since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by the United Nations in 1995, the number of women parliamentarians has nearly doubled worldwide.

Yet, with a global average of only 24.9 percent, women’s representation in parliaments is still lagging in most places.

As of 2019, women occupy at least 30 percent of seats in parliament in only 20 of the 56 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region, and at least 40 percent in only 6 of these.

 
Women's participation in parliament in ...
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Forecast based on past trends

If changes continue at the current pace, this is how women's representation in parliament will look like in by 2030.

We calculated this forecast by taking the average rate of improvement in from 1995 to 2019 and projecting it into the future.

Forecast based on recent trends

If changes registered in the past five years continue, this is how women's representation in parliament will look like in by 2030.

We calculated this forecast by taking the average rate of change in in the past five years and projecting it into the future.

Best case forecast

If the situation improves similarly to the country performing best in the region, this is how women's representation in parliament will look like in by 2030.

We calculated this forecast by taking the rate of improvement from the country performing best in the region and accelerating the change in with this amount over five years and then keeping it constant.

Worst case forecast

If the situation deteriorates similarly to the country registering the worst drop in the region, this is how women's representation in parliament will look like in by 2030.

We calculated this forecast by taking the drop rate in the country performing worst in the region and deteriorating the situation in with this amount over five years and then keeping it constant.

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The global average for women’s representation in parliament has inched up from 11.2 to 24.9 percent in the last two decades. That’s progress, but still nowhere near gender parity or even the one third threshold generally considered the minimum needed to shape law and policy for gender equality. Gender gaps in political and economic empowerment are the widest, while they have almost closed in other key measures of equality such as health and education. According to the 2020 Gender Gap Report, produced by the World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress, it will take 94.5 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment and a staggering 257 years to achieve equal economic participation.

What’s more, after a decade of slow growth, women’s political empowerment (gender ratios in ministerial and parliamentary positions, and the ratio of years that women and men have served as presidents or prime ministers) has dropped or reversed in recent years, partly because of women’s lower tenure as heads of state.

In 22 western economies which collectively closed 41 percent of the gender gap in parliaments, progress reversed in 2018. Projections of women’s parliamentary representation on this website are in line with these trends, suggesting that in some countries rates could stagnate or even decline in the near future.

In recent years, 42 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region have raised the proportion of women in parliament, with the overall average reaching 28 percent. However, women occupy more than 30 percent seats in only 20 of these countries, despite the fact that this threshold was the internationally agreed minimum target set in 1990, emphasised in the Beijing Platform in 1995 and later in Agenda 2030 in 2015. Among them are Spain and Finland with 47 percent, and Serbia with 37 percent.

's parliament compared to other parliaments in 2019
 
 

A number of countries and territories have sought to implement measures to bolster the number of women in politics, as a result of sustained efforts by women’s networks in parliament and local assemblies and pressure from women’s rights advocates. The most notable legislation in this area has been electoral gender quotas for candidates in parliamentary and local elections.

Over the last two decades, 22 countries in the UNECE region have adopted electoral gender quotas of varying degrees, ranging from 20 to 50 percent. In the Western Balkans, all countries and territories have made amendments to their electoral laws for national-level legislature, introducing electoral gender quotas of at least 30 percent on electoral lists, while Ukraine and Moldova have recently upped this to 40 percent. In 2000, France became the first country in the world to adopt a 50 percent electoral gender quota for the lower chamber of parliament.

However, when it comes to the effectiveness of electoral gender quotas in propelling women to the front lines of politics, the devil is in the details. In some countries, where the law was not designed specific enough, the leaders of political parties managed to ignore it by simply naming women candidates on ineligible positions in the second half of their lists. In others, the proposed quotas were only voluntary or even if mandatory, the fines or penalties for disregarding them were not strong enough to motivate a real change. Furthermore, if the quotas only apply to the lower house, progressive legislation about gender equality, designed by the new wave of women joining parliament, often gets stuck in the upper house which remains heavily dominated by men.

Despite these challenges, quota measures do signal a commitment to gender equality. Some countries have managed to fix the loopholes that prevented them from being effective. For example, in Armenia, Moldova, and Montenegro, the quota laws were amended to make sure women and men alternate on candidate lists. Election authorities in Greece and North Macedonia reject candidate lists that do not fulfil the quota requirements and Kyrgyzstan requires that any members of parliament stepping down must be replaced by someone of the same gender to prevent parties from pressuring their women candidates to give up their seats after being elected.

Overall, most countries and territories that have implemented electoral gender quotas have seen a significant increase of women representatives. With the right mix of measures, they can accelerate progress towards gender parity in parliaments by 2030. Out of the 22 countries in the UNECE region that have adopted electoral gender quotas, 17 have seen an increase in the number of women in parliament, while only five have noticed a downturn.

Quota legislation in Europe and Central Asia

 

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. In most countries, women entering electoral politics face an obstacle course – strewn with political parties dominated by men, lack of funding, gender stereotypes, and plain misogyny in politics, media and society.

A recent World Values survey in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia showed that large numbers of people believe that "men make better political leaders than women do." In Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, more than 40 percent of those surveyed agreed with this view, while in Uzbekistan, 54 percent of respondents strongly agreed with it. Not surprisingly, campaign financing is among the most significant challenges faced by women in politics.

Gender-based violence is another major challenge for women as it can limit their agency and influence their willingness to enter politics. Globally, an estimated one in three women suffers violence from intimate partners or non-partners, a figure that has stayed stubbornly high over two decades, despite tremendous efforts – in laws, services, and funding – to tackle this scourge. Violence against women and girls has also taken malevolent new forms in cyberstalking and bullying, vicious online sexual naming and shaming and ferocious trolling.

According to a UN report on Violence Against Women in Politics, women are especially a target because of their gender, and sexist threats, sexual harassment and gender-based violence add a dangerous dimension to any opposition they face. Take, for example, the cases of Afro-Brazilian human rights defender and city councillor, Marielle Franco, the UK Labour Party MP Jo Cox, and Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who were murdered for their political beliefs and grassroots leadership. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, faces persistent sexist and homophobic portrayals in the media, which sets aside her skills and qualities and focuses on her personal life.

Women’s continuing responsibility for household and care work is another major obstacle to their entering political or public life. The recent spurt of attention to the global gender pay gap has mostly ignored a fundamental and enduring cause for gender inequalities: women’s burden of unpaid work. Between 1997 and 2012, the time spent on average by women on housework and caregiving in countries worldwide has fallen by only 15 minutes per day, while for men it increased by just eight minutes per day.

Along with unpaid work, gender-based discrimination in the family, gender segregation in education and employment, and gender-based violence are all factors that limit women’s access to decision-making positions, in politics, government and public or private sectors.

 
 

In addition to these persisting obstacles, there are emerging challenges to gender equality. The political lurch to the right in countries around the world, led by conservative parties and ‘strongmen’ leaders espousing ultranationalist ideals, has given rise to a resurgence in patriarchal norms that has imperilled gender equality, human rights and social justice. Most disturbing is a backlash phenomenon against “gender ideology” that is rolling back women’s hard-won gains, especially in education, reproductive rights and protection from violence, and endangering the advances in rights for LGBTI people. This backlash is partly a response to the growing visibility of women in recent decades and, with its anti-feminist nature, has growing and insidious impacts.

The threats to women’s rights have changed and grown more complex since 1995, but the challenges remain the same. Beijing+25 is a moment to double down on our efforts to counter them – by turning laws and policies into action, investing much more in gender equality, rebuilding fragmented women’s movements, bridging gaps in intergenerational dialogue, fighting gendered social norms and entrenched patriarchy in all its forms.

Women in leadership must support and empower women everywhere to recover a sense of shared struggle and galvanize the energy that gave the world the Beijing Platform 25 years ago. Only then can we move women’s rights forward at a faster pace.

Above all, we must make gender equality everyone’s concern. So spread the word, share #EqualFuture widely and join forces with local initiatives for women’s rights. Together, we will succeed.