Members' Research Service By / March 1, 2021

Women in politics in the EU: State of play

In several EU Member States, a century has now passed since women won the right to vote in national elections, were elected to national parliaments or first held a ministerial position.

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Written by Rosamund Shreeves and Ionel Zamfir (updated on 03.03.2023).

One hundred years after women won the vote or were first elected to parliament in some EU countries, the data show that women continue to be under-represented in politics and public life, in the European Parliament, but also in national parliaments, governments and local assemblies. The arguments for gender balance in politics are numerous. It benefits not only women and female politicians, but also political parties themselves and the rest of society. After all, women form half the population and deserve to be better represented in power structures.

There is now solid evidence of the obstacles, but also of strategies that are effective when it comes to increasing women’s participation and representation. Here, political parties and the media can be both barriers and important enablers. The EU has committed to achieving a gender balance in political representation and participation as a matter of justice, equality and democracy. Concrete recommendations have been made for achieving this goal, including specific action that could be taken by the EU institutions, national governments, political parties, civil society and the media.

The new security situation in Europe, triggered by the ongoing war in Ukraine, has reignited debates on the link between gender equality, female leadership and peace. Moreover, the economic downturn and the rising cost of living have once again highlighted the need for gender-balanced political representation, capable of taking into account differentiated gender impacts.

This is an update of a briefing from March 2021.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Women in politics in the EU: State of play‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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