How many women are in your parliament?

Intro text

Over the last 26 years, since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by the United Nations in 1995, the number of women parliamentarians has more than doubled worldwide.

Yet, with a global average of only 25.6 percent in 2020, women’s representation in parliaments continues to be very low.

As of 2020, women have at least 30 percent of seats in parliament in only 24 of the 56 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region, and 40 percent in only nine 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 2020 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 womens representation in parliament has inched up from 14.1 to 25.6 percent in the last two decades. That is progress, but still well below 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 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, at the current rate of progress, it will take 145.5 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment and a staggering 267.6 years to achieve equal economic participation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately hit women and increased the global gender gap, which will require an extra 36 years – more than another generation – to be closed. The pandemic has further exposed women’s underrepresentation in decision-making: although women are at the centre of the COVID-19 response – e.g., as healthcare workers, educators and care providers, they represent only 24 percent of members of COVID-19 task forces worldwide.

The Generation Equality Forum (launched in Mexico City on 29 March and ending in Paris on 2 July 2021) underlines the urgency of realizing the commitments made in the landmark Beijing Women’s Conference. It brings together governments, civil society, private sector, entrepreneurs, trade unions, artists, academia and social influencers to drive urgent action and accountability for gender equality. One of its six Action Coalitions, on Feminist Movements and Leadership, has launched a global acceleration plan to advance women’s leadership by 2026. The coalition calls for actions to address harmful social norms and gender stereotypes, defend civic space, including online, and develop and implement gender transformative policies and regulations addressing women’s underrepresentation in decision-making.

Indeed, evidence shows that 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. As a result, the global political empowerment gender gap has widened.

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, 50 countries and territories have raised the proportion of women in parliament. However, women occupy more than 30 percent seats in only 25 of these, despite the fact that this threshold was the internationally agreed minimum target set in 1990, emphasized in the Beijing Platform in 1995 and later in the Agenda 2030 in 2015. Among them are Sweden and Andorra with 47 and 46.4 percent respectively, Serbia and North Macedonia with 39.2 percent and Kosovo* with 32.5 percent.

's parliament compared to other parliaments in 2020
 
 

Several countries and territories have implemented 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.

Twenty-five countries and territories have adopted electoral gender quotas ranging from 20 to 50 percent. In the Western Balkans, all countries and territories have amended electoral laws for national legislatures, introducing electoral gender quotas of at least 30 percent on electoral lists, while Serbia upped this to 40 percent in 2020. 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 such quotas in propelling women to the front lines of politics, the devil is in the details. In some countries, where the law is not specific enough, the leaders of political parties manage to ignore it by simply naming women candidates to ineligible positions in the second half of their lists. In others, the proposed quotas are voluntary; even if mandatory, the fines or penalties for defaulters are not strong enough to motivate real change. Furthermore, if quotas only apply to the lower house, progressive legislation for 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 in recent years 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. 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.

As of 2020, almost all countries and territories in the region that have adopted electoral gender quotas have seen an increase in the number of women in parliament. For instance, after the adoption of a 25 electoral gender quota in 2020, women’s share of seats in the Georgian parliament went up by nearly seven percent. With the right mix of measures, quotas can accelerate progress towards gender parity in parliaments by 2030.

Quota legislation in Europe and Central Asia

 

Numbers do not however 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, the media and society.

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 Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine, between 32 and 38 percent of those surveyed agreed with this view, while in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, 39 and 42 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 aspiring to political careers. 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. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified different forms of violence against women and girls, with domestic violence increasing by up to 65 percent in countries in the UNECE region as an effect of lockdown and quarantine measures.

According to a UN report on violence against women in politics, women are especially a target because of their gender; 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. Maia Sandu, Moldova’s first woman President, had to fight an array of misogynistic and sexist comments over the course of the campaign trail in 2020. Likewise, during the parliamentary elections campaign in Georgia in 2020, women candidates became the target of 40 percent of abusive comments on Facebook, despite being only 22 percent of monitored profiles.

Women’s continuing responsibility for domestic and care work is another major obstacle to their entering political or public life. Before the COVID-19 crisis, women in the UNECE region spent on average 13 more hours per week in unpaid care activities compared to men. The pandemic lockdown measures, with extended closures of schools and childcare services, have further widened the gender gap in unpaid work and led to many women losing or leaving paid work. Time-use surveys conducted in Europe and Central Asia show that during the first phase of the pandemic, a high share of women reported spending more time on at least one unpaid care activity, with gender disparities becoming more evident as the number of these activities increase. While employed men working from home picked up a higher share of unpaid work during the lockdown period, women still did much more of it than men.

 

In addition to these barriers, there are other 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 rising visibility of women 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, while COVID-19 has worsened gender inequalities. The pandemic recovery is an opportunity 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, and 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 26 years ago. Only then can we move women’s rights forward at a faster pace.

Let us join forces and forge alliances for women’s rights and leadership at all levels for an #EqualFuture.