from Women Around the World and Women and Foreign Policy Program

Women’s Power Index: Find Out Where Women Lead—and Why It Matters

New data from CFR’s Women’s Power Index shows that in countries such as the United States, Belgium, and Lithuania, more women are in power than ever before.

Women’s representation in politics globally continues to increase, albeit slowly, according to new data from CFR’s “Women’s Power Index,” an interactive tool first published in February 2020 that ranks 193 UN member countries on their progress toward gender parity in political participation.

Three countries have made significant progress toward gender parity in political representation since the Index was updated last fall. In the wake of the 2020 election, the United States featured the largest improvement in its score and ranking, moving from #128 to #43. As President Joe Biden sought to fulfill his campaign pledge to appoint a gender balanced cabinet, the number of women cabinet members rose from 17 percent to nearly half (47%), with two cabinet vacancies still remaining. The number of female members in U.S. Congress rose to a record-breaking 27%.

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Across the Atlantic, in Brussels, a historic cabinet composed of eight women and six men under Prime Minister Alexander De Croo helped Belgium leap ahead in the rankings, from #32 to #13. And in Lithuania, Ingrida Simonyte, the newly elected female prime minister, appointed a nearly gender-balanced cabinet, which boosted the country’s score and ranking to #29. Once again, Costa Rica and Rwanda sit at the top of the rankings, demonstrating how gender quotas and reservations make a powerful difference in elevating women’s leadership.

Twenty-two countries are now led by women, an achievement reached only once before, in 2019. Sophie Wilmès (Belgium), Jeanine Áñez (Bolivia), and Simonetta Sommaruga (Switzerland) departed from office, and Kaja Kallas (Estonia), Ingrida Šimonytė (Lithuania), Maia Sandu (Moldova), Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), and Victoire Tomegah Dogbé (Togo) were sworn in. Estonia has both a female head of state and government.

Despite this progress, women’s representation remains nowhere near gender parity. The global average political parity score rose—slightly—from 26.9 to 27.5, on a scale in which 100 represents full gender equality. UN Women estimates that it will take until 2077 to achieve gender parity in ministerial positions and until 2063 for reach gender balance in national parliaments. And while the overall global trend toward gender balance in political representation is growing, in some countries it is declining: Romania, for example, fell ten points on the index, plummeting to the lowest ranking in Europe after Prime Minister Florin Citu appointed just one woman in a cabinet of twenty-one people. This backsliding was evident elsewhere: although women’s representation rose in eighty-eight countries since September 2020, it fell in sixty-one others.

The Women’s Power Index will continue to be updated quarterly. Explore the Index here>>

More on:

Women and Women's Rights

Women's Political Leadership

Elections and Voting

Heads of State and Government

Congresses and Parliaments