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Girls & Women

Number of Female Leaders Around the World Remains Stagnant, UN Finds

By Gabriella Canal|

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Worldwide, a mere 16 women are heads of states and government, eight of whom are their country’s first woman in power.

Among all parliamentary positions, that number is only 23%, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and United Nations Women.  

And while the numbers have more than doubled since 2000, these women still represent fewer than 10% of the 193 UN member states.

Read More: A woman will hold power in Taiwan for the first time in a century

In other words, the statistics do not reflect a world in which women account for about half of the entire population.

This data comes shortly after the historic defeat of Hillary Clinton, the first US female presidential candidate on the ticket of a major party, and the impeachment of South Korea’s Park Geun-hye and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.

So, Where Are Women in Seats of Power Found?

According to the Pew Research Center, three-fifths of the countries now under female leadership are in Europe. This includes Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, who replaced David Cameron as the country’s prime minister and was the second woman in the position after Margaret Thatcher.

Then, there’s Kersti Kaljulaid, who became president of Estonia in October 2016, Doris Leuthard, serving president of the Swiss Confederation for 2017, and of course, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Merkel, who first assumed office in 2005, has been the de facto leader of mainland Europe, the champion of liberal ideals, and the bearer of economic dominance.

Read More: Forget Presidents — Here Are Little-Known Facts About 13 Influential First Ladies

Merkel plans on running again in 2017, but is now confronted with a strengthened far-right movement, the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany.

“I might bend but I will never break because it’s in my nature as a strong woman,” she has said.   

Increasingly, there are more women being represented in unexpected places.

Two-thirds of the seats in Rwanda’s parliament are occupied by women — a higher percentage than in any other country.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 5.08.38 PM.pngSource: PEW Research Center

Coming from a traditionally patriarchal society, Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina faced extreme fear tactics before becoming prime minister in 2009. Today, she ranks number 36 of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2016.

Saara Kuugongelwa, the first woman to become prime minister of Namibia, was sworn into office in March of 2015, and is one of the very short list of female leaders in Africa.

Latin America has also produced a number of female heads of state and government, such as Michelle Bachelet, who became the first female president of Chile in 2006.

Read More: 13 Inspiring Women Leading the Fight for Gender Equality

In the grand scheme of things, the United States is far behind, having had little-to-no female leadership in its 240 years.

Today, women make up about 19% of the House and Senate. That’s lower than Somalia (at 24%) and Argentina (at 39%).

The US ranks 33rd out of 49 high-income countries when it comes to having women in the national legislature.

“There is progress, but progress is excruciatingly slow,” said Martin Chungong, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

At this rate, many believe it could take 50 years or more to reach parity.

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