Women in power in 2023: New data shows progress but wide regional gaps

Geneva/New York — More women than ever hold political decision-making posts worldwide, but gender parity is still far off, according to the 2023 edition of the IPU-UN Women Map of Women in Politics.

The map presents the latest rankings and regional distribution of women in executive positions and national parliaments as of 1 January 2023. The data shows that the number of women in political leadership roles, both in government and in parliament, has increased overall but some regions lag far behind.

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said: “This data tells us that women are still the minority of Heads of State and Government. They are still deeply under-represented in government leadership, at less than one in four Cabinet Ministers, with men continuing to dominate critical portfolios such as the economy, defence, and energy. Full democracy needs the equal participation of women in all its processes. Yet, continued violence and threats—online and offline—against women leaders, candidates, and voters blight the potential for their voices and knowledge to bring the change that is so urgently needed for economic and social recovery. The world cannot afford to continue this injustice. We need a paradigm shift that brings true equality.”

IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, said: “We’re seeing ongoing progress in the number of women in politics this year, which is encouraging. However, we still have a long way to go to reach gender equality when we see the current rates of growth. With the interlinked crises of climate change, geopolitical tensions, economic instability, and social inequality, the world needs to better harness the talents of women and encourage them to enter politics sooner rather than later.”

More women in highest positions of State

As of 1 January 2023, 11.3 per cent of countries have women Heads of State (17 out of 151 countries, monarchy-based systems excluded), and 9.8 per cent have women Heads of Government (19 out of 193). This is an increase compared to a decade ago when figures stood at 5.3 per cent and 7.3 per cent, respectively. Of all the regions, Europe continues to have the highest number of countries led by women (16).

Europe and the Americas have the most women Cabinet Ministers

Women represent 22.8 per cent of Cabinet Ministers as of 1 January 2023. Europe and North America (31.6 per cent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (30.1 per cent) are the regions with the highest share of women in cabinets.

However, in most other regions, women are severely under-represented dropping as low as 10.1 per cent in Central and Southern Asia and 8.1 per cent in the Pacific Islands (Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand).

Only 13 countries, mostly in Europe, have gender-equal cabinets, with 50 per cent or more of women cabinet members as heads of ministries.

Rank Country % Women in Cabinet
1. Albania 66.7
2. Finland 64.3
3. Spain 63.6
4. Nicaragua 62.5
5. Liechtenstein 60.0
6. Chile 58.3
7. Belgium 57.1
8. Mozambique 55.0
9. Andorra, Colombia, Germany, Netherlands, Norway 50.0

There are 17 additional countries with women’s representation among Cabinet Ministers between 40 and 49.9 per cent, nine of which are in Europe.

Nine countries—most in Oceania and Western Asia—have no women cabinet members heading ministries.

Women lead human rights, gender equality, and social protection portfolios

Women tend to lead policy areas related to gender equality, human rights, and social affairs.

Ministerial portfolio % Women
Women and gender equality 84
Family and children affairs 68
Social inclusion and development 49
Social protection and social security 45
Indigenous and minority affairs 44

Notably, the data also shows that, although underrepresented, women are at the helm of other important policy portfolios, including environment (32 per cent), public administration (30 per cent), and education (30 per cent).

However, men continue to dominate policy areas such as economic, defence, justice, and home affairs portfolios. Women only comprise 12 per cent of Cabinet Ministers leading defence and local government portfolios, 11 per cent of energy, natural resource fuels, and mining portfolios, and 8 per cent of transport portfolios.

More women at the highest level of parliamentary leadership

The new data also shows that the number of women Speakers of Parliament has increased to 22.7 per cent compared with 20.9 per cent in 2021. The Map follows the release of the IPU’s annual Women in Parliament report, which shows that the global proportion of MPs who are women has inched up to 26.5 per cent compared with 25.5 per cent in 2021.

The IPU data on women in parliament also reveals wide global disparities: European Nordic countries are at the top of the regional ranking (45.7 per cent of MPs are women) while the Middle East and North Africa region remains at the bottom (17.7 per cent of MPs are women).

The new IPU-UN Women Map of Women in Politics was presented during the 67th session of the Commission of the Status of Women, the largest UN gathering on gender equality. This year’s priority theme is “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”