Knowledge Center

Women in Government


Women in Canadian Government: Not Yet at Parity

Just over one-quarter (26.4%) of all members of House of Commons are women (88).1

Close to half (43%) of all Senators are women (43).2

For the first time in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet is gender-balanced, with 15 men and 15 women.3

United States

115th United States Congress: Women Are Still a Minority
  • In the House of Representatives, women hold just 83 (19.1%) of the 435 seats.4
  • In the Senate, women hold just 21 (21%) of the 100 seats.5

In 2007, Nancy Pelosi was the first woman elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives.6

In 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first woman nominated by a major party for the Presidency of the United States.7

Women of Color Are Even Further Behind
  • Just 7.1% of the total members of Congress are women of color.8
  • Of the 104 women members of Congress, 36.5% (38) are women of color.9

US Governors: Women Remain the Minority

There are only four current US governors that are women.10

  • Only one woman of color currently serves as governor.11

Women's Share of US State Positions Is Growing, but Men Still Occupy the Majority 
  • 24.8% of US state legislators are women.12

  • Women hold 442 (22.4%) of state senate seats and 1,390 (25.7%) of state house seats.13

  • The number of women serving in state legislatures has more than quintupled since 1971.14

  • Women hold just 23.7% of statewide elective executive offices around the country.15

Women Are Winning Mayoral Elections More Often

As of July 2016, 18.9% of all US cities with more than 30,000 residents have a woman as a mayor.16


Select countries ranked by women's representation in national legislatures or parliaments:17

  • Rwanda = 1
  • Bolivia = 2
  • Australia = 50
  • Canada  = 63
  • United States  =  100
  • The rest of the top ten include Cuba, Iceland, Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, South Africa, and Ecuador.18
(Note that while women represent more than 50% of the lower house in both Rwanda and Bolivia, women represent less than 50% in the upper house of each country).19
Women Heads of Government
The following countries have democratically elected women to lead their countries:
Head of Government Title Country
Michelle Bachelet20 President Chile
Bidhya Devi Bhandari21 President Nepal
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca22 President Malta
Ameenah Gurib23 President Mauritius
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic24 President Croatia
Dalia Grybauskaite25 President Lithuania
Sheikh Hasina Wazed26 Prime Minister Bangladesh
Hilda Heine27 President Marshall Islands
Tsai Ing-wen28 President Taiwan
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf29 President Liberia
Theresa May30 Prime Minister United Kingdom
Angela Merkel31 Chancellor Germany
Erna Solberg32 Prime Minister Norway
Beata Szydło33 Prime Minister Poland


Additional Resources

Catalyst, "Government Affairs."

International IDEA, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Stockholm University, The Quota Project (2015).

Pew Research Center, Women in Leadership: Public Says Women Are Equally Qualified, but Barriers Persist (2015).

University of Albany, Rockefeller College, Center for Women in Government in Civil Society, “CWGCS Research” (2016).


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Women in Government. New York: Catalyst, February 15, 2017.