81 countries made more progress than the USA on women’s representation

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has a great archive of women’s representation in parliaments in most countries, from 1997 to 2016. I made this figure using the numbers for the lower houses (or single houses, if only one), which in the USA is the House of Representatives.

From 1997 to 2016, women rose from 12% to 19% of House members. During that time, for 163 countries, the average rose from 10% to 21%. When I cut the list down to 137, arbitrarily excluding a lot of very small countries, the USA slipped from 54th place to 84th place. Here’s the breakdown of changes in those countries (click to enlarge):

countries ranked by women's representation in parliament, 1997-2016

At this rate, in just 36 more years the House will get to the level of women’s representation that Hanna Rosin said Congress was at in 2012.

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Note: The code for making this figure in Stata looks like this:

gr twoway scatter rank16 rank97, mlabel(country) mlabposition(0) msymbol(i)

Before tinkering with the appearance and titles in the graph editor.

3 thoughts on “81 countries made more progress than the USA on women’s representation

  1. Well, simple eyeballing the graph tells me that women representation seems to be greater than in USA in countries which are much more socially conservative than USA. For example, my native country, Poland, which is ultra-religious, ultra-traditional by US standards. In fact, except for Scandinavian countries, seems to me that left lower corner is dominated by countries which I usually would not suspect about being especially “progressive about women’s rights”. Which could mean, either or all of the following:

    (a) women’s representation in parliament is very poor representation of women’s power in a society or how “progressive” a society is
    (b) feminism movement in USA does especially bad job compared to, for example, almost non-existent and universally despised feminist movement in Poland
    (c) feminist and socially liberal movements actually have no impact on women’s representation in parliament.


  2. When looking closer at the IPU website we need to ask a question. How many women run for office during the election(s)? In our Canadian federal election last year 88 women were elected to Parliament. The Prime Minister set up his Cabinet 50/50 for a show of equality and encouragement.

    Having worked with many election campaigns the one I am the proudest, being a male, was the election of a women in Edmonton Center. She made it happen right in the heart of “the old boys club”. It was very close with a vote recount giving her 11 votes over the 30 year male incumbent. She did much better during the following election. Happy you bring this topic up front Philip with the hope others will ask the same questions.


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