Progress towards closing the gender gap in politics has been slow, according to data accumulated by UN Women. In fact, since 2005 there has only been a 3.5% increase in the global number of female ministers. Today, there are 715 female minsters worldwide; a mere 17.7% of government ministers globally.

There are currently 18 female heads of state, excluding royalty, half of whom are their nation’s first female leader. Sixty-three nations have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years.

The need to accelerate progress is being taken seriously around the world. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for example, has pledged to increase female representation in Japan to 30% by 2020, while UN Women has suggested that “women’s political empowerment and equal participation in political decision-making are likely to feature in the new sustainable development agenda taking over from the Millennium Development Goals this year”.

The World Economic Forum has also established task forces worldwide, which work to improve gender parity in various nations.

So, which countries have an elected female head of state?

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Author: Donald Armbrecht is a freelance writer and social media producer.

Image: Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister of Justice and Police looks on during the ‘Welcoming Remarks and Special Address’ at the congress centre during the Annual Meeting 2015 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 21, 2015. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Michele Limina