Mapped: Where Women Hold the Most and Least Political Power
Where Women Hold the Most and Least Political Power
View the medium or highest resolution version of this map to explore all countries.
From the right to vote, to owning property and assets, women’s legal and economic rights have come a long way.
International Women’s Day, held annually on March 8th is an opportunity to commemorate global improvements around gender equality. One big driver for this is women’s political participation—however, progress in this area has not been distributed evenly worldwide.
Women’s Political Power: Share of Ministers in Cabinets
In this map, we dig into how much political power women hold around the world. The Council on Foreign Relations pulls the latest data from UN Women and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to examine the shares of women holding ministerial positions in 195 national cabinets.
Here are the top five countries with the highest percentages of women’s political power:
- 🇪🇸 Spain: 66.7%
- 🇫🇮 Finland: 61.1%
- 🇳🇮 Nicaragua: 58.8%
- 🇨🇴 Colombia: 57.9%
- 🇦🇹 Austria: 57.1%
Even though women make up half the global population, they’re not always represented at higher levels of government. Only 14 countries have at least 50% women holding ministerial positions in the national cabinet.
|Country||Region||% Women in National Cabinet|
|Algeria||Middle East/North Africa||15.2|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Americas||15.4|
|Bahrain||Middle East/North Africa||4.4|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Europe||22.2|
|Burkina Faso||Sub-Saharan Africa||14.3|
|Cape Verde||Sub-Saharan Africa||21.4|
|Central African Republic||Sub-Saharan Africa||20.0|
|Cote d'Ivoire||Sub-Saharan Africa||12.8|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||Sub-Saharan Africa||17.4|
|Egypt||Middle East/North Africa||24.2|
|Equatorial Guinea||Sub-Saharan Africa||7.1|
|Iran||Middle East/North Africa||6.5|
|Iraq||Middle East/North Africa||4.6|
|Israel||Middle East/North Africa||16.7|
|Jordan||Middle East/North Africa||13.8|
|Kuwait||Middle East/North Africa||21.4|
|Lebanon||Middle East/North Africa||31.6|
|Libya||Middle East/North Africa||-|
|Morocco||Middle East/North Africa||15.8|
|North Korea||Asia and the Pacific||-|
|Oman||Middle East/North Africa||11.1|
|Papua New Guinea||Asia-Pacific||0.0|
|Qatar||Middle East/North Africa||7.1|
|Republic of Congo||Sub-Saharan Africa||21.2|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Americas||11.1|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Americas||0.0|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Sub-Saharan Africa||33.3|
|Saudi Arabia||Middle East/North Africa||0.0|
|Sierra Leone||Sub-Saharan Africa||17.2|
|South Africa||Sub-Saharan Africa||48.3|
|South Sudan||Sub-Saharan Africa||15.6|
|Syria||Middle East/North Africa||13.3|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Americas||33.3|
|Tunisia||Middle East/North Africa||6.9|
|United Arab Emirates||Middle East/North Africa||16.7|
|Yemen||Middle East/North Africa||6.3|
On the flip side, nine countries have 0% women in their national cabinet, such as Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
The silver lining to this is that Saudi Arabia is actually improving in some areas of women’s economic rights in recent years, such as granting more freedom of movement to travel and prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis on gender.
The Most Powerful Women: Female Heads of State/Government
From Indira Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher, many women have held notable and influential leadership positions in the past, serving as tours de force for the global economy.
Presently, there are only 24 countries with a female head of state or government. Moldova’s Maia Sandu is the latest to rise into a Presidential role as of December 2020. Here’s who the rest are, and their titles.
|🇧🇩 Bangladesh||Sheikh Hasina||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇧 Barbados||Mia Mottley||Prime Minister|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||Mette Frederiksen||Prime Minister|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Kersti Kaljulaid||President|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Kaja Kallas||Prime Minister|
|🇪🇹 Ethiopia||Sahle-Work Zewde||President|
|🇫🇮 Finland||Sanna Marin||Prime Minister|
|🇬🇦 Gabon||Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda||Prime Minister|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||Salomé Zourabichvili||President|
|🇩🇪 Germany||Angela Merkel||Chancellor|
|🇬🇷 Greece||Katerina Sakellaropoulou||President|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||Katrín Jakobsdóttir||Prime Minister|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||Ingrida Šimonytė||Prime Minister|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||Maia Sandu||President|
|🇳🇦 Namibia||Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila||Prime Minister|
|🇳🇵 Nepal||Bidhya Devi Bhandari||President|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||Jacinda Ardern||Prime Minister|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Erna Solberg||Prime Minister|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||Ana Brnabić||Prime Minister|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Halimah Yacob||President|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||Zuzana Čaputová||President|
|🇹🇬 Togo||Victoire Tomegah Dogbé||Prime Minister|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||Paula-Mae Weekes||President|
|🇹🇼 Taiwan||Tsai Ing-wen||President|
Last updated: Mar 2, 2021
As the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel holds the longest consecutive term of all female heads of state/government. With 15 years under her belt, Merkel is largely seen as a de facto leader of Europe. However, she intends to step down as chancellor after her term ends in September 2021.
Since 1946, Switzerland has had five total elected or appointed female heads of state or governments—the highest of any country. Simonette Sommaruga, the most recent female president of the nation, was only succeeded in the new year and dropped off this list.
Glass Ceiling in Politics?
While women have made strides in reaching their political potential worldwide, it’s interesting to note that they generally have a harder time ascending to office in larger countries compared to smaller economies.
For example, Estonia is the first country to have two female heads of state/government with both the president and prime minister positions being filled by women. On the flipside, many other countries have never had even one female head of state.
That said, shares of women holding seats in national legislatures are growing worldwide, which means that progress in these upper levels may be just around the corner.
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens.”
Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally
How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.
Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally
The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.
Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.
Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.
In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.
V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.
Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:
- Free and fair elections
- Rule of law
- Alternative sources of information and association
- Freedom of expression
Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.
Which Countries Have Declined the Most?
The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:
|Country||Democracy Index (2010)||Democracy Index (2022)||Points Lost|
Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.
Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.
Countries Becoming More Democratic
Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:
|Country||Democracy Index (2010)||Democracy Index (2022)||Points Gained|
|🇬🇲 The Gambia||0.25||0.50||+25|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||0.42||0.57||+15|
Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.
The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.
With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.
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