by Claire Zillman
Originally published: March 7, 2017
The past year has been marked by considerable setbacks for women in politics. Brazil’s first-ever female president Dilma Rousseff was impeached amid a bribery scandal and now Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, is embroiled in her own corruption probe. And of course, the United States missed out on the chance to elect its first female leader, while American women failed to gain ground in Congress. Elections in Australia, meanwhile, ushered in an overall drop in women's representation in parliament.
Discouraged yet? Don’t be. The Inter-Parliamentary Union has released a new paper ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday that shows it's not all bad news.
Worldwide, the average share of women in parliament rose from 22.6% at the end of 2015 to 23.3% at the end of last year—6.5 points higher than the global average a decade ago. That heartening figure is bolstered by countries’ individual success stories. The tiny island nation of Palau, for instance, saw the greatest number of women elected to parliament in the last 30 years after two female candidates won seats in the lower house. Ireland saw its share of women in parliament surge from 15.1% to 22.2% after all political parties fielded candidate lists that were between 31% and 35% female. In Morocco, 20.5% of seats belonged to women last year—nearly double the share in 2007. Gender quotas have fueled some of those gains, but such measures are by no means a cure-all. The IPU found that quotas ensure a minimum level of women’s representation but don’t always extend beyond that.