Pursuing parity: New report examines gender quotas across different electoral systems

Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 8th March 2024

Throughout history, the political landscape of the United Kingdom has been predominantly shaped and governed by men. The struggle towards gender parity across the United Kingdom has been fought tirelessly throughout the 20th century. Women were given the right to stand as MPs in 1918, some women got the right to vote in 1918, the suffrage movement won the vote on the same terms as men in 1928, and the first woman prime minister was appointed in 1979.

Due to coordinated efforts of campaigners and activists, over the last 100 years an increasing number of women have assumed roles in politics. This shift is particularly evident in the increase in women Members of Parliament (MPs) who, as of February 2024 totalled 226 out of the 650 MPs, (35%). However, whilst the number of women MPs has increased, there is still a long way to go in order to achieve gender parity in elected bodies in the UK. 

Gender parity around the world

Across the world, as of 2nd Feb 2024, there are only 6 Parliaments (Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Rwanda, Andorra and the United Arab Emirates) which have gender parity in their lower or single house. 

Other countries have achieved gender parity previously, such as Wales in 2003, however these have fallen back into male majorities in recent years. Globally there is an increasing number of women parliamentarians; in 1995 women made up only 11.3%, whereas by the end of 2022 women made up 26.5% of parliamentarians. However, whilst it is positive that there is an increasing number of women members, 2022 showed the slowest progression of women’s representation in parliaments in 6 years, only increasing 0.4% from the previous year. If this rate continues, it will take over 80 years for gender parity to be realised globally. It is evident that there is more work to be done before parliamentary gender parity becomes a reality.  

Quotas are a key mechanism to enable gender parity. In 2022 there were 18 countries which had a change in parliament where legislated gender quotas were in place in the single or lower house. In these countries 30.3% of the total number of MPs are women. In comparison, in countries with no gender quotas (19) which had a parliamentary renewal e.g. change in parliament, only 22.2% of parliamentarians elected were women. There is an 8-point percentage difference in gender parity achievement between countries with quotas and those without.  

How would a quota be implemented?

There are multiple types of gender quotas, and the ease and effectiveness of implementation can differ across voting systems. Our new report, Pursuing Parity: Examining Gender Quotas Across Electoral Systems, explores the different quota mechanisms through which gender parity can be achieved, examining the benefits and the potential drawbacks of the approaches. It then assesses the ease and success of quota implementation across majoritarian and proportional voting systems. Following this, we’ve created country case studies of several of the approaches that explore the mechanisms in action. 

Pursuing Parity illustrates how implementing gender quotas and moving to a proportional representation voting system (PR) can help speed up the progress of achieving gender parity in elected bodies around the world and at home.

Read our new report: Pursuing Parity

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