Two decades after the United Nations resolved to address the gender imbalance in global parliaments, women still compose only 22 percent of national parliamentarians worldwide, falling woefully short of their 30 percent target, according to data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Saber Chowdhury (right) with speakers of parliament, who attended the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at UN Headquarters. Photo courtesy of  IPU for the United Nations

President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Saber Chowdhury (right) with speakers of parliament, who attended the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at UN Headquarters. Photo courtesy of IPU for the United Nations

Released last month, the findings point to the persistent gender gap in global leadership. For example, only 11 women served as Head of State and as few as 13 as Head of Government as of August 2015. In addition, women constitute less than 10 percent of single or lower house parliamentarians in 37 States worldwide, with 6 chambers devoid of women completely.

The report coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. That year, women comprised a mere 11 percent of the world’s lawmakers and in an effort to increase representation of women in all levels of government, policy makers committed to achieving at least 30 percent women among the official ranks worldwide. In 2015, however, only 44 of 190 legislatures have met or surpassed that goal, including Rwanda (63.8 percent), Bolivia (53.1 percent) and Cuba (48.9 percent). The United States (19.4 percent) ranked number 76 on the list participating countries, with fewer women in the lower houses of government than even Saudi Arabia (19.9 percent by king’s appointment), Kazakhstan (26.2 percent) and Afghanistan (27.7 percent).

Fortunately, women policymakers around the globe are taking matters into their own hands. In a declaration authored by parliamentarians representing governments worldwide, including national assembly of Mauritus speaker Santi Bai Hanoomanjee and Baroness Frances D’Souza of the British House of Lords, officials implored the international community to address gender inequality in their countries’ parliaments, imposing a new deadline for women’s greater representation in global government: 30 percent by 2020.

“Be advocates for gender equality,” said Hanoomanjee in a speech at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. “Persuade boys and men that our countries and world can only benefit from equal opportunity and rights. We urge you to lead by example.”

Media Resources: Inter-Parliamentary Data 2015; NY Times 9/1/15; UN Women Facts and Figures;

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