From the local to the global level, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted. Women are under-represented as voters, as well as in leading positions – whether in elected office, the civil service, the private sector or academia. This occurs despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in democratic governance.

Women face several obstacles to participating in political life. Structural barriers through discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s options to run for office, and capacity gaps mean women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

Individual women have overcome these obstacles with great acclaim, but for women as a whole, the playing field needs to be level, opening opportunities for all.

Women are still under-represented in government, business, civil society, and key positions of influence. UN Women works to change this by:

  • Providing training for women political candidates to help build their capacities;
  • Running voter and civic education and sensitisation campaigns on gender equality;
  • Calling on political parties, governments and others to do their part in empowering women;
  • Encouraging young men and women to engage in advocacy around making gender equality central to public policy-making; and
  • Promoting women’s rights, including their right to vote and to violence-free campaigning.

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Women’s representation in local government: A global analysis

This working paper features data and analyses of women’s representation in 133 countries and areas. The paper considers the impacts of legislated quotas and electoral systems in local elections on women’s political participation and identifies remaining data gaps on women’s political participation in local government, including data disaggregation, underused electoral data, and the need for new data collection tools.

Effective, decisive, and inclusive: Women’s leadership in COVID-19 response and recovery

This working paper analyses how women leaders at the national and subnational levels of government managed COVID-19 response and recovery from January 2020 through March 2021. The paper finds that women decision-makers demonstrated effective leadership, rapid response, and implemented socially inclusive policies and provides recommendations on how to ensure women’s participation and contribution to the pandemic response and recovery.

Guidance note: Preventing violence against women in politics

The guidance note discusses key concepts and norms about violence against women in politics, including definitions and normative frameworks, and provides practical guidance for addressing violence against women in politics at country level through different interventions.

Quick Facts

  • Women hold only one quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide. 

  • Just one of the 25 CEOs appointed to lead ASX 200 organisations in the past year has been female.

  • Only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

  • Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide, where, women have won 61.3% of seats in the lower house.