Women Hold 18% of Parliamentary Seats Worldwide

The Associated Press reports on a new survey of women in Parliaments by the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Women hold just over 18 percent of the seats in parliaments around the world, a 60 percent increase since 1995 but a long distance from equality with men in national legislative bodies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said Thursday in its annual report card…During 2008, parliamentary elections and renewals took place in 54 countries and women’s representation increased to 18.3 percent — up from 17.7 percent last year and 11.3 percent in 1995, the IPU report said.

Of the 2,656 seats that went to women in 2008, the IPU said 1,707 women were directly elected, 878 were indirectly elected and 71 were appointed…Latin American women registered “some impressive gains,” taking a 26.5 percent share of seats in the 12 chambers that were renewed — largely due to the success of women candidates in Cuba, Belize and Grenada, the IPU report said…In the United States, both houses of Congress elected their highest proportions of women members — 17 percent in each chamber, the report said. But that’s still ranks the U.S. below the global average.

As usually in these kinds of measures of social progress, the Nordic countries come out on top. Just over 44% of Parliamentarians in Scandanavia are women. Presumably, this includes the world’s first openly gay head of state, Iceland Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

Check out UNIFEM for more stats on the progress (or, sadly, lack thereof) of the status of women worldwide.