Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

There are over 1,000 global banknotes - this is how many feature women

A selection of banknotes in different currencies.

Queen Elizabeth II is the most featured woman on a banknote worldwide. Image: UNSPLASH/John McArthur

Ivett Kovács
Featured Creator, Visual Capitalist
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  • This infographic visualizes the women who have appeared on banknotes throughout history.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is the most featured woman on a banknote worldwide.
  • Authors, singers, poets and painters are featured on a number of different currencies, including Frida Kahlo on a 500 Mexican peso bill.
Infographic showing women on banknotes.
Notable women. Image: Visual Capitalist

Visualizing the women on banknotes worldwide

A study by Swedish loan company Advisa analyzed 1,006 current international banknotes and found that only 15% featured images of women.

Who are these women, and which countries feature them on their bills?

This graphic by Ivett Kovács and Gabrielle Merite visualizes women on banknotes around the world, showing their main occupations, and the value of the banknotes they’re featured on.

The list: Women on bills

To create this graphic, Ivett used data from the Standard Catalogue of World Paper Money, compiled by Vox.

A table showing countries with women on their banknotes.
Queen Elizabeth II is the most featured woman worldwide. Image: Visual Capitalist

To see the other women featured worldwide, click here.

According to the dataset, Queen Elizabeth II is the most featured woman worldwide.

Canada was the first country to use an image of Queen Elizabeth II on their money. In 1935, Canada printed her on a $20 banknote—the British monarch was only a 9-year-old princess at the time. Now, Queen E appears on a variety of different banknotes in 19 different countries. In the Cayman Islands, she’s on their $1, $5, $25, $50, and $100.

A few other queens or royal members have made it onto different banknotes too—Georgia’s 50 lari note has an image of Queen Tamar, who was the Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, and Albania’s 100 lekë features Queen Teuta, a 3rd century queen of an Illyrian tribe.

While royals (especially Queen Elizabeth II) are frequently featured on bills worldwide, women in other positions have also made it onto banknotes.

Authors, singers, poets, and painters are featured on a number of different currencies. For instance, Sweden has Astrid Lindgren—the author of Pippi Longstocking—on their 20 kronor.

Sweden also features three other women on their bills: Birgit Nilsson, Jenny Lind, and Greta Garbo, making their banknote features an even 50/50 split between men and women.

A quick history of women featured on U.S. banknotes

Essentially the only time a woman was prominently featured on a U.S. banknote was in the late 19th century when Martha Washington—the wife of President George Washington—appeared on a $1 silver certificate.

Old American dollar, with Martha Washington.
Martha Washington featured on a $1 silver certificate. Image: Visual Capitalist

This dearth of women on U.S. banknotes may soon come to an end. The Biden administration is now speeding up efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, an initiative that was delayed in recent years. When the plan was initially introduced by then Treasury secretary, Jacob Lew, in 2016, the new design was set to be unveiled in 2020 on the centennial of the 19th Amendment (which granted women the right to vote).

Women are still underrepresented

It’s worth noting that women are still consistently underrepresented in positions of power, and in the media.

And even when women do hold authoritative positions, research has shown they’re taken less seriously than their male counterparts.

That’s why events like International Women’s Day exist. It’s not just a time to celebrate women’s achievements - it’s also a day to shed light on existing gender bias, and ultimately take action to help combat gender inequality.

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Related topics:
Equity, Diversity and InclusionFinancial and Monetary Systems
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