The global average for women’s 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.