Knowledge Center

Women in Canadian Government

  • Women were 21.1% of all elected politicians in provincial and territorial legislations and parliaments.1
  • The 2011 Federal Elections had record numbers of women elected to the House of Commons: 76.2 This is just 24.6% of all MPs.3
  • Just 36 Senators are women, compared to 62 Senators who are men.4
  • 28.5% (452) of people running for the 2011 campaign were women.5
  • Elizabeth May (Green Party) is the only woman Federal Leader on Parliament Hill.6

Women in U.S. Government

112th U.S. Congress
  • Women hold 17 (17.0%) of the 100 Senate seats, the same as the 111th Senate.7
  • Women hold 73 (16.8%) of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, up from 72 in the 110th House of Representatives.8
  • 24 of the 90 women in Congress are women of color, representing 4.5% of the total members of Congress and 27% of the women members of Congress.9
  • In 2007, Nancy Pelosi was the first woman elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives.10

U.S. Cabinet

  • Six women currently serve in cabinet or cabinet-level posts.11
  • Forty women have held a total of 45 cabinet or cabinet-level appointments in the history of the U.S.12

U.S. Governors

  • Six of the current governors are women, a decrease of 2 from 2008.13
  • Two women of color currently serve as governors.14

U.S. State Legislatures

  • In 2011, 1,745(23.6% of the 7,382) state legislators are women, a decrease from 1,809.15
  • Women held 428 (21.7%) of the 1,971 state senate seats and 1,317(24.3%) of the 5,411 state house seats.16
  • Since 1971, the number of women serving in state legislatures has more than quintupled.17

U.S. Statewide Elective Executive Offices

  • In 2011, 71 women held statewide elective executive offices around the country, or 22.4% of the 317 available positions.18

U.S. Mayors

  • 203 women (17.4 %) are mayors of U.S. cities with more than 30,000 residents.19


Women in Government, Internationally

  • The U.S. is ranked at 69th in the world in terms of women's representation in national legislatures or parliaments (tied with Turkmenistan) out 188 direct election countries (as of October 31, 2011), down from 57th in November 2004. Canada is tied with Australia for 38.20
  • Rwanda is currently ranked first, followed by Andorra, Seychelles, Sweden, South Africa, Cuba, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Belgium, tied with the Netherlands.21

Women Heads of Government

The following countries have democratically elected women to lead their countries:

Head of Government Title Country
Michele Calmy-Rey22 President Switzerland
Laura Chinchilla23 President Costa Rica
Julia Gillard24 Prime Minister Australia
Sheikh Hasina25 Prime Minister Bangladesh
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf26 President Liberia
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner27 President Argentina
Jadranka Kosor28 Prime Minister Croatia
Angela Merkel29 Chancellor Germany
Kamla Persad-Bissessar30 Prime Minister Trinidad and Tobago
Iveta Radicova31 Prime Minister Slovakia
Dilma Rousseff32 President Brazil
Yingluck Shinawatra33 Prime Minister Thailand
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir34 Prime Minister Iceland
Helle Thorning-Schmidt35 Prime Minister Denmark


Legislation to Increase Women in Government

The following countries have put in place legislation to increase the representation of women in national government:

Country Description Sanctions Date of Passage
Angola36 Charter of political parties must include rules that promote gender equality, Quota for women must not be less than 30% Data not available July 1, 2005
Burkina Faso37 List of candidates must include 30% of each gender Public funding cut by 50% April 16, 2009
Mauritania38 Senate must include at least one women, with the woman candidate’s name being first. If quota regulations are not met, the electoral administration may reject candidate lists. Political parties that elect more women than the quota necessitates earn a financial bonus. 2006
Rwanda39 Women are granted at least 30% of positions in all “decision-making organs.” Data not available 2003
Senegal40 Candidate lists must contain  an alternating list of 50% of each gender Disqualification 2010


Asia and the Middle East
Country Description Sanctions Date of Passage
East Timor41 One out of every four candidates on the electoral list must be a woman Rejection of list 2006
Iraq42 1/4 of National Assembly must be female. Data not available 2005
Korea, Republic of43 PR elections: 50% quota for woman for 56 positions
Majority election: 30% quota for women for 243 seats is recommended
Data not available 2000
Uzbekistan44 30% quota for women candidates for political party elections Data not available 2009


Country Description Sanctions Date of Passage
Albania45 Candidate list must be a quota of at least 30% women and/or one of the first three names on a candidate list much be from each gender. Fine of up to one tenth of state funds 2008
Armenia46 Candidate lists must be 20% women, and every tenth position on lists. Parties can not register 2005
Belgium47 On candidate and alternate lists, gender representation must be equal, top two cannot be of the same gender Rejection of list 2009
Bosnia and Herzegovina48 33% must be of the underrepresented sex Data not available 2006
France49 On candidate lists difference between genders cannot be more than 2% Subsidies cut by 75% of the difference 2009
Macedonia50 On candidate lists 1 out of 3 must be a woman Rejection of list 2008
Poland51 On candidate lists, the total number of candidates of either gender must not be lower than 35% 3 days to comply, list otherwise rejected January 5, 2011
Portugal52 On candidate lists minimum of 33%of each gender If more than three names, will be made public, and subject to financial sanctions N/A
Serbia53 Candidate lists must have 30% of each gender,and reserve every fourth place for the underrepresented gender Will not be recognized 2004
Slovenia54 25% female during transition period with final goal of 35% gender quota Rejection of list 2008
Spain55 On candidate lists minimum of 40% and maximum of 60% of each gender Rejection of list March 2007


North America and Central America and the Caribbean
Country Description Sanctions Date of Passage
Costa Rica56 Candidates lists must be 40% women; genders must alternate; must be placed in electable seats Rejection of  list 1999
Dominican Republic57 33% of women in electoral seats. No quota for senate seats Data not available 1997, 2000
Mexico58 Candidates  must be 40% women, except for parties that democratically elect their leaders. 48 hours to rectify lists, then publically reprimanded, then list is rejected 2009
Panama59 30% quota for women in party and general elections Data not available 1997


South America
Country Description Sanctions Date of Passage
Argentina60 On party lists quota of 30% women candidates Parties will be not approved 1991
Bolivia61 Chamber of Deputies: On candidate lists 1 out of 3 must be a woman (in PR part of the election)
Chamber of Senators: one out of four nominated candidates must be women
Must rectify lists if they do not comply 1997, 2005
Brazil62 Candidate lists must be 30% female Authorities can remove candidates from lists 1997, updated 2000
Ecuador63 Candidate lists must include an equal number of each gender, gender must alternate Rejection of list 2008
Guyana64 Candidates must be one third women Lists will not be approved 2006
Honduras65 Candidate lists quota of 30% women Data not available 2000
Paraguay66 Parties must have at least 20%  participation  of women.
Candidate lists must have a woman in every fifth place
Lists will not approved if they do not comply 1996
Peru67 30% quota for women Authorities can reject candidates 1997, 2001
Uruguay68 On candidate lists both genders must be represented every three positions either in the first fifteen positions or the entire list. In cases were only two candidates compete, one candidate must be a woman. Rejection of list 2009


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in Government. New York: Catalyst, 2012.