Facts & Figures on Democratic Governance


  • As of 2008, 18.4 percent of national parliamentarians are female (as opposed to 11.6 percent in 1995), and 17 heads of state or government worldwide are women.
  • Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide since the election in September 2008 (56 percent of seats).
  • A 30 percent minimum for women in representative assemblies was set as a target at the Beijing conference in 1995, while the parity zone is considered between 40–60 percent.
  • Since 1995, this 30 percent benchmark set as the 'critical mass' has been attained in 22 countries, including in six African countries.
  • 95 countries worldwide apply some form of quotas. Out of the 22 countries that boast 30 percent or more women in national assemblies, 18 of them applied quotas in some form.
  • It will take developed countries at least 20 years and all other countries closer to 40 years to reach the parity zone of 40-60 percent.
  • Countries with Proportional Representation electoral systems and with quotas can expect to reach the 40 percent threshold on average by 2026.
  • Women’s presence in public office represents one indicator for Goal 3 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — “to promote gender equality and empower women”.
  • Higher numbers of women in parliament and other public office positions generally contribute to stronger attention to women's issues.
  • Women in public office encourage greater political engagement by ordinary women.
  • More women in politics is not correlative with a decrease of corruption, as often assumed. Rather, democratic and transparent politics is correlated with low corruption, and the two create an enabling environment for more women to participate in politics.
  • As a regional average, women hold between 7.7 to 28.1 percent of ministerial posts, while individual countries range from 0 to 58 percent.
  • A 2008 study in Latin America indicates a systematic discrepancy between the numbers of women as members of political parties and the numbers of women in leadership positions within these parties. For example, in Paraguay, 46.5 percent of party members are women, while 18.9 percent of executive posts in party leadership are held by women.


The following numbers represent the average percentage of women parliamentarians in each region by mid-year 2008:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 16 percent (ranging from 2 to 56 percent within the region)
  • Middle East & North Africa: 8 percent (ranging from 0 to 26 percent within the region)
  • South Asia: 15 percent (ranging from 3 to 34 percent within the region)
  • East Asia & Pacific: 11 percent (ranging from 0 to 29 percent within the region)
  • Latin America & Caribbean: 18 percent (ranging from 0 to 43 percent within the region)
  • Central & Eastern Europe/ CIS: 29 percent (ranging from 6 to 16 percent within the region)
  • Developed Regions: 26 percent (ranging from 9 to 47 percent within the region)


All Facts & Figures on Democratic Governance are based on Chapter 2 of Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009, Who Answers to Women? Gender & Accountability.