The 2017 edition of Women in Politics 2017 Map launched recently by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women shows a slight drop in the number of countries with a woman Head of State and/or Head of Government from 19 to 17.
However, the data reveals a significant increase in the number of countries with a woman Head of State and/or Head of Government since the IPU-UN Women Map’s first edition in 2005 (from 8 to 17). Data shows that the global average of women in national parliaments increased just slightly from 22.6 per cent in 2015 to 23.3 per cent in 2016.
The Map, which depicts global rankings for women in the executive and parliamentary branches of government as of 1 January 2017, shows slow progress towards gender equality in these areas at regional and national levels.
Women Speakers of Parliament have however significantly increased in number, now at an all-time high of 19.1 per cent, but obviously still far from gender balance.
“Power is still firmly in men’s hands, and although we have witnessed some positive trends—for example, the current record number of 53 women Speakers of Parliament out of 273 posts, globally—much remains to be done if women are to play on a level field with men,” said IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong.
The number of women Ministers barely changed, rising to a total of 732 (compared to 730 in 2015); women’s participation at the ministerial level now stands at 18.3 per cent.
“These data powerfully tell the story of the persistent missing voice of women,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Regional highlights: trends for women ministers
Continuing a trend since 2015, Africa saw a steady decline in the number of women ministers. Women hold 19.7 per cent of the region’s ministerial posts in 2017, having first surpassed this percentage in 2012 after seven years of rapid progress.
The Congo and Zambia outperformed the rest of the region, adding four and six women ministers and reaching women’s representation rates of 22.9 per cent and 33.3 per cent, respectively.
2017 saw the Americas make significant gains, bringing women’s representation to 25 per cent (from 22.4 per cent in 2015) and setting a new regional high; however, the region saw a drastic drop in women Heads of State/Heads of Government after the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina left office.
Canada and Nicaragua surpassed gender parity in ministerial positions, while Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay approached or exceeded 30 per cent. By contrast, Brazil continued its downward trend, dropping from a 25.6 per cent representation rate in 2014, to 15.4 per cent in 2015 and finally, four per cent in 2017.
In Asia, women held 11 per cent of ministerial posts (from 10.6 per cent in 2015). Indonesia became the country in the region with the highest participation of women in government (25.7 per cent), while Viet Nam and Nepal experienced steep declines drifting below five per cent.
Gains were minor in the Arab States, where women’s representation in senior executive posts reached 9.7 per cent (from 9.5 per cent in 2015).
Tunisia’s rate of women’s representation rose significantly from 10.5 per cent in 2015 to 23.1 per cent in 2017, after two additional women joined the government, while the UAE increased women’s presence in government to 26.7 per cent; these are the only two countries in the region to surpass 20 per cent.
In Europe, the total percentage stood at 22.5 per cent (up slightly from 21.6 per cent in 2015). Remarkably, while the Nordic countries have traditionally led on women’s representation in politics, the 2017 data shows this region suffered the largest setback globally with a 6.2 per cent drop in the number of women ministers from 2015, although women still account for 43.5 per cent of the executive in the region overall.
Bulgaria, where women’s representation rose to 52.9 per cent from 17.6 per cent in 2010, quickly climbed the ladder in the world ranking from 45th to 1st. The United Kingdom and Romania gained the most women ministers in absolute terms (three), while Estonia, Belarus and Italy lost the most (two).
After steady increases in women’s representation since 2012, the Pacific region stagnated (remaining at 13 per cent, as in 2015). Given the small size of the region (only 14 countries), slight changes in numbers have significant impact in terms of the share of positions held by women.