RepresentWomen is committed to researching and identifying the best practices for increasing women’s representation in politics, drawing from evidence around the world. Part of this work leads us to closely track parliamentary elections and compare the outcomes from year to year. In 2021 and 2022, we identified 44 elections where women achieved record highs for their representation in parliament. The purpose of this analysis is to bring attention to how election rules and voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics.
Between 2021 and 2022, 85 countries held elections for their lower houses of parliament. In 44 of these countries, a record number of women were elected, constituting a “golden year” for women’s political representation in that country.
Through the use of case studies, the following analysis hones in on the role that systems-level factors, such as election rules and voting systems, play in creating opportunities for more women to be elected worldwide. We found that:
- Countries are breaking records for women’s representation each year. Of 85 countries that held elections in 2021 and 2022, 44 broke records for women’s political representation records and achieved “golden years.”
- Not all “record-breaking” progress is significant. While some countries have made considerable gains in women’s representation in a short period, others, including the United States, are making incremental progress.
- The countries that have made the most progress adopted gender quotas. Additionally, 65% of countries that attained a golden year have either proportional (PR) or semi-proportional (semi-PR) voting systems. This finding echoes previous research that has established a positive relationship between gender quotas, proportional representation, and women’s representation.
- Repealing quotas negatively impacts women’s representation in politics. While the countries that made the greatest progress toward gender balance adopted gender quotas, those that repealed quotas experienced an immediate decline in women’s representation. In addition to reaffirming the impact that quotas have on women’s representation, this finding suggests that quotas alone don’t resolve all barriers to representation.
Analyzing women’s representation globally shows that many other countries have progressed toward gender balance in politics; learning from these countries and adopting the election rules and voting systems conducive to gender-balanced governance is critical if we are to have full and fair representation in the United States.