Women’s Representation In Political Decision-making Rising At Sluggish Pace, Report Says

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The 2020 edition of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)‑UN Women map of Women in Politics says women’s representation in political decision-making is increasing at a sluggish pace.

The data’s publication coincides with the 25-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the world’s most comprehensive agenda for gender equality.

The IPU-UN Women map presents global rankings for women in parliament and government positions as of January 1, 2020.

It shows all-time highs for the number of countries with women heads of state and/or heads of government, and for the global share of women ministers, Speakers of parliament and parliamentarians, as compared to previous map editions.

Still, 25 years after Beijing, women are underrepresented across all levels of power.

IPU President, Gabriela Cuevas, says “it is impossible to predict when women will have equal opportunities in politics as we cannot see a clear trend.

“But what is absolutely clear is that current efforts are not enough, and some countries are actually going backward.

‘’We cannot afford to wait for another four generations before we reach gender parity. It is time to translate words into action and to start demanding commitments and legal changes.

‘’We must engage with the 46,000 members of parliament in the world to eradicate all discriminatory legislation to ensure that women can enter politics.”

UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, says “we have created a world where women are squeezed into just 25 percent of the space – in parliaments and in other critical decision-making spaces.

“Yet we know that more women in high-level political decision-making positions lead to policies that benefit the whole of society. Women and girls are radically impatient for change and we are calling on leaders and parliamentarians to take the necessary actions to ensure their voices are heard and their priorities reflected.”

Women heads of state and government

Just over 10 percent of countries in the world are led by a woman today. Twenty countries now have women heads of state and government – up from 19 countries in 2019.

As of January 1, 2020, 6.6 percent of elected heads of state are women (10 out of 152) and 6.2 per cent of heads of government (12 out of 193); in two of these countries (Bolivia and Switzerland), the head of state and government is the same.

However, progress in women’s representation among world leaders continues to lag, by comparison: only eight women leaders were in power when the IPU and UN Women launched one of the first editions of the map in 2005.

Today, more than half of women heads of state and government are in Europe. Nearly all governments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway) are headed by a woman, with Sweden being the exception.

Three women heads of state or government are in power in the Americas, which is half the number compared with 2015. The region experienced a significant decline in the number of women heads of state or government between 2015 when there were six, and 2017 when the number dropped to only one.

There are three women heads of state or government in Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, and Singapore), one in Africa (Ethiopia) and one in the Pacific (New Zealand).

Except for Israel, no other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have had a woman head of state or government.

Women in government

There has been an encouraging trend of more governments with gender-balanced cabinets: women now account for 50 percent or more ministerial positions in 14 countries, up from nine in 2019.

An additional 16 countries have 40 percent or more women ministers.

Europe and the Americas are the leaders when it comes to having gender parity in cabinets. In two countries, women hold over 60 percent of ministerial seats (Spain and Finland). Finland stands out as the only country to have both gender parity in the cabinet and a woman head of government.

Overall, the proportion of women ministers is at an all-time high at 21.3 percent (851 out of 4003), which is 7.1 percentage points higher than in 2005, when only 14.2 percent of ministers were women.

In the 190 countries for which data is available, men continue to dominate certain ministerial portfolios. For example, there are only 25 finance/budget portfolios and 22 defence portfolios led by women ministers.

Conversely, despite some shifts in recent years, women ministers are still most likely to oversee family and social affairs, followed closely by environment and energy portfolios.

For the first time since 2015, the number of countries without women’s representation in executive cabinets has dropped into single digits, with nine countries remaining without women ministers (Brunei Darussalam, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Viet Nam).

Women Speakers of parliament

Women now serve as parliamentary Speakers in nearly all regions of the world. Only the Pacific does not currently have a woman presiding officer of parliament.

The share of women parliamentary Speakers overall is 20.5 percent in 2020 (57 out of 278 presiding officer posts across 192 countries). This is double the share of women Speakers 25 years ago when the Beijing Conference took place.

However, the share of women Deputy Speakers decreased by 3 percentage points to 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

In 2019, seven countries appointed women Speakers of parliament for the first time (Andorra, Belarus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malawi, and Togo).

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