This section contains facts and figures on women's participation in politics, governance, and decision-making and other relevant statistics on women.
(Updated: July 2012)

Women In Parliament: 1945–1995

50 years of History

  • The number of sovereign States having a Parliament has increased seven-fold
  • The percentage of women MPs worldwide has increased four-fold
  • The record average level was reached in 1988 with 14.8% of women MPs.

26 parliaments

  • 3.0% women MPs
  • 2.2% women Senators

61 parliaments

  • 7.5% women MPs
  • 7.7% women Senators

94 parliaments

  • 8.1% women MPs
  • 9.3% women Senators

115 parliaments

  • 10.9% women MPs
  • 10.5% women Senators

136 parliaments

  • 12.0% women MPs
  • 12.7% women Senators

176 parliaments

  • 11.6% women MPs
  • ? 9.4% women Senators

* The record world average was reached in 1988 with 14.8% women MPs.

Source: IPU Study No. 28, 1997, “Men and Women in Politics: Democracy Still in the Making.”

You can check IPU eBulletin here, and IPU Women in Politics Bibliographic Database here.  


Political participation facts and figures 

Out of over 250 countries, only a few are currently headed by women (as of April  2009):

In Asia and Pacific
  • Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines
  • Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, President of India
  • Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh
  • Quentin Bryce, Governor General of Australia

In other parts of the world

  • Luisa Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
  • Tarja Halonen, President of Finland
  • Mary McAleese, President of Ireland
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia
  • Rosa Zafferani, Co-Head of State, San Marino
  • Michelle Bachelet Jeria, President of Chile
  • Michele Pierre-Louis, Prime Minister of Haiti
  • Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina 
  • Michealle Jean, Governor General of Canada 
Other women leaders in government include:
  • 5 Vice presidents:
    • Sandra Pierantozzi, Vice President of Palau
    • Milagros Ortiz Bosch, Vice President of the Dominican Republic
    • Annette Lu, Vice President of Taiwan
    • Aisatou N'Jie Saidy, Vice President of Gambia
    • Astrid Fischel Volio, Vice President of Costa Rica
  • 4 Governor-generals:
    • Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New Zealand
    • Ivy Dumont, Governor-General of the Bahamas
    • Adrienne Clarkson, Governor-General of Canada
    • Pearlette Louisy, Governor-General of Saint Lucia
  • 4 Major opposition leaders:
    • Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress Party, India
    • Aung San Suu Kyi, Leader of the National League for Democracy, Burma
    • Angela Merkel, Leader of the CDU, Germany
    • Jenny Shipley, Leader of the National Party, New Zealand

Rwanda now has the world's highest proportion of female members of parliament, a study shows. Following elections in October 2003, 48.8% of Rwanda's MPs are women, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Sweden, where 45% of MPs are women, has been the long-standing leader of the IPU ranking of women in parliament. Source: BBC News

A world record was set on 02 May 2003 when the Welsh assembly became the first legislative body with equal numbers of men and women. Women's rights groups hailed the breakthrough after 30 women were elected to the 60-strong assembly - an increase of five. Source: The Guardian

Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands and Germany had all reached the 30% goal of parliamentary seats taken by women by the end of 2002 along with Argentina, Costa Rica, South Africa and Mozambique. According to UNIFEM's report 'Progress of the World's Women 2002' these states had met the target through quota systems. Despite these gains, however, women still accounted for only about 14% of members of parliament worldwide in 2002. Source: BBC News

In the same report by UNIFEM , 13 developing countries in the sub-Saharan region - the poorest area on Earth - had higher proportions of women MPs than the US (12%), France (11.8%) and Japan (10%). Rwanda has 25.7% and Uganda, 24.7%. Of the Gulf states which have parliaments, neither Kuwait nor the United Arab Emirates give women the right to vote or stand for election.

On May 2003 Qatar appointed Sheikha bint Ahmed Al-Mahmud as the Gulf state's first woman cabinet minister. The appointment followed an April 29 referendum in which Qataris overwhelmingly approved a written constitution recognising a woman's right to vote and run for office. Source: Dawn

Austria was the only State to have elected a woman to the presidency of one of the Parliament's Chambers (the Bundesrat) before the Second World War.

Currently, 26 women preside over one of the Houses of the 178 existing Parliaments, 64 of which are bicameral.

In 1995, Sweden became the first country to have an equal number of women and men in ministerial posts. At present, however, the Swedish cabinet is below parity with 43% women ministers.

Quota systems are being established in some countries to ensure greater participation of women in decision-making.

Reserved Seats:
In Jordan, women activists launched a campaign in November 2002 advocating for reserved seats to help increase the number of women parliamentarians.
In Morocco, 10% of parliamentary seats are reserved for women. (Following the October 2002 elections, the number of female parliamentarians increased from two to an Arab-world record of 35.)
In India, 33% of seats at the local government level are reserved for women.

In Tanzania, 20% of national seats and 25% of local government seats are reserved for women.

Legislated Quota for Political Parties:
In France, a 1999 constitutional amendment requires political parties to include 50% of women candidates on party lists submitted for election.
In South Africa, a municipal act states that political parties must ensure women comprise 50% of lists submitted for local-level elections.
Voluntary Quota Adopted by Political Parties:
In Norway, the Labour Party in 1993 introduced a 40% quota for women.
In Sweden, the Social Democratic Party in 1994 introduced the (zebra) principle of listing a woman on every second line of the party list.

Women ministers remain concentrated in social areas (14%) compared to legal (9.4%), economic (4.1%), political affairs (3.4%), and the executive (3.9%).

7% of the world's total cabinet ministers are women.

There are 9 women ambassadors to the United Nations. They are from Finland, Guinea, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Somalia, and Turkmenistan.

In the United Nations system, women hold only 9% of the top management jobs and 21% of senior management positions ( Storz & Bickel), but 48% of the junior professional civil service slots.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation to grant women full voting rights.

Among the countries in the developing world that were the earliest to grant women the right to vote were: Finland (1906), Albania (1920), Mongolia (1924), Ecuador (1929), Turkey (1930), Sri Lanka (1931).

Some of the latest countries to grant women suffrage are: Switzerland (1971), Iraq (1980), Namibia (1989), Kazakhstan (1994).

In the 21st century, some countries still do not have universal suffrage. Among them are Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

Among the developing nations who have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are: Bahrain, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified CEDAW.


Economic decision-making facts and figures

  • Only 1% of the world's assets are in the name of women.
  • Men in the Arab states have 3.5 times the purchasing power of their female counterparts. What is the role of size genetics?
  • 70% of people in abject poverty-- living on less than $1 per day-- are women.
  • Among the developed countries, in France only 9% of the workforce and in the Netherlands 20% of the workforce are female administrators and managers.
  • Among the developing countries, in Ecuador and the Bahamas, 33% of the workforce is comprised of women administrators and managers.
  • Women's participation in managerial and administrative posts is around 33% in the developed world, l5% in Africa, and 13% in Asia and the Pacific. In Africa and Asia-Pacific these percentages, small as they are, reflect a doubling of numbers in the last twenty years.
  • There are only 5 women chief executives in the Fortune 500 corporations, the most valuable publicly owned companies in the United States. These include the CEOs of Xerox, Spherion, Hewlett-Packard, Golden West Financial, and Avon Products.
  • In Silicon Valley, for every 100 shares of stock options owned by a man, only one share is owned by a woman.