Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Women's History Month: In this super election year, how many women will be elected?

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72 countries are set to go to the polls this year. Image: Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Kate Whiting
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Gender Inequality

  • With more than half of the world voting in elections this year, how will it impact gender parity in politics?
  • It will take another 162 years to close the Political Empowerment gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023.
  • These are the countries that have the most women in parliament.

In 2024, it's thought that around half of the global voting population will go to the polls in 72 countries in what is billed as a super election year.

But when the year comes to a close, how many of the newly elected members of parliament will be women?

Progress is happening, albeit slowly. The share of women in parliament has risen from 18.7% globally in 2013 across the 76 countries with consistent data to 22.9% in 2022. Meanwhile, as of December 2022, just over a quarter of the global population (27.9%) - around 2.12 billion people - had a female head of state.

It will take another 162 years to close the Political Empowerment gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

Which countries have the most women MPs?

Europe leads the way with the highest share of women in parliament, according to the Forum's report, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

All regions have seen increases, except for the Middle East and North Africa, where there was a sharp drop in women in parliament between 2020 and 2021, owing in part to a reduction in Algeria from 26% to 8%. This dropped even lower to 4% in 2022.

Algeria is one of the countries that will go to the polls again this year.

Women's representation in parliament
Most regions have seen rises in the number of women MPs. Image: Global Gender Gap Report

In 2022, Nicaragua had the strongest representation of women in its National Assembly in with 51.65% being women.

There were also 28 economies where more than a third, but less than a half of the representatives were women. They included Iceland (47%), Costa Rica (47%) and the UK (35%).

The UK has improved since 2013, when women in the House of Commons were outnumbered 3:1. The disparity led Frances Scott to set up 50:50 Parliament, a British cross-party campaign calling for gender equality in politics, because, as she says: “We are facing some of the biggest challenges that humanity has had to deal with, and half of humanity are women – we need to be involved in planning the future.”

Thinktank British Future has predicted the number of women MPs could rise from 220 to 250 in this year's general election - and that parliament could become the most diverse so far.

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In the remaining 45 countries for which there was data, women made up less than a third of parliamentarians in 2022, including Canada (31%), the US (29%), China (25%), Brazil (18%), India (15%) and Japan (10%).

In 2022, the biggest jumps in the share of women in parliament were in Malta, followed by Colombia and Slovenia.

Notably, these countries have implemented legislated candidate quotas in their electoral laws.

What can help to close the politics gender gap?

Analysis by the Inter-Parliamentary Union has found that quotas are one of two factors that influence gender parity in politics, with the type of electoral system being the other.

"Specifically, proportional representation and/or mixed electoral systems tend to enable a higher representation of women compared to plurality/majority systems," it says.

In September 2023, the Indian government passed a landmark bill reserving 33% of seats for women in India's parliament, which campaigners said could lead to more female-friendly policies. Since 1996, six attempts to pass the bill had all failed.

Lower house MP Sarmistha Kumari Sethi said: "Women will progress if they get representation, whether it is (in) political, economic, or social spheres."

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Equity, Diversity and InclusionGeo-Economics and Politics
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