Knowledge Center

Women in Government


Women in Canadian Government: Not Yet at Parity

Just over one-quarter (27%) of all members of House of Commons are women (91).1

Just over one-third (36.8%) of all Senate seats are held by 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 22 (22%) 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

Few Women Have Ever Held a US Cabinet Position


Fifty-two women have held a total of 59 cabinet or cabinet-level appointments in the history of the United States.8

  • Five women currently serve in cabinet or cabinet-level posts.9
Women of Color Are Even Further Behind

Just 7.1% of the total members of Congress are women of color.10

  • Of the 106 women members of Congress, 35.8% (38) are women of color.11

US Governors and Executive Officers: Women Remain the Minority

There are only six US governors that are women in 2018.12

  • Only one woman of color currently serves as governor.13

Women hold just 22.8% of statewide elective executive offices around the country.14

Women's Share of US State Positions Is Growing, but Men Still Occupy the Majority 

25.4% of US state legislators are women.15

  • Women hold 447 (22.7%) of state senate seats and 1,428 (26.4%) of state house seats.16

  • There are five times as many women serving in state legislatures now than in 1971.17

Women Are Winning Mayoral Elections More Often

As of March 2018, 21.6% of all US cities with more than 30,000 residents have a woman as a mayor.18


Select countries ranked by women's representation in national legislatures or parliaments:19

  • Rwanda = 1
  • Bolivia = 2
  • Australia = 49
  • Canada  = 59
  • United States  =  100
  • The rest of the top ten include Cuba, Nicaragua, Sweden, Mexico, South Africa, Finland, Senegal and Norway.20
(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).21
Current Women Heads of Government

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


Head of Government Title Country
Bidhya Devi Bhandari22 President Nepal
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca23 President Malta
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic24 President Croatia
Dalia Grybauskaite25 President Lithuania
Sheikh Hasina26 Prime Minister Bangladesh
Hilda Heine27 President Marshall Islands
Tsai Ing-wen28 President Taiwan
Theresa May29 Prime Minister United Kingdom
Angela Merkel30 Chancellor Germany
Erna Solberg31 Prime Minister Norway


Additional Resources

Catalyst, "Government Affairs."

International IDEA, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Stockholm University, "Gender Quotas Around the World," Gender Quotas Database.

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.”

Women’s Foreign Policy Group, 2018 Guide To Women Leaders (2018).


How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Government (April 24, 2018).