There are now more women in national parliaments around the world than ever before, according to a new report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union released ahead of International Women’s Day. A worldwide average of 23.3 percent of parliamentarians are women as of 2016, up from 22.6 percent the year before.
The IPU, an international organization that works with the United Nations, published their annual year in review of women in parliament on Tuesday. It documents both the significant progress towards gender equality in governments, but also the massive gaps and challenges that still persist.
The report shows that the worldwide average of women in parliaments has risen by over 6 percent in the last decade alone, and appears to be on a continuous upward trend. There are also more women speakers than at any previous time, with 53 women heading their respective chambers.
In addition, the report breaks down the number of women in parliament to individual countries and regions, finding that the Americas rank the highest in terms of representation at 28.1 percent.
The region with the lowest average of women in parliament is the Pacific, which includes Australia and island nations such as Palau, at 17.4 percent female parliamentarians. But the Pacific has also made some of the greatest gains in the last 10 years, up from 6.3 percent women in parliament in 2006.
In terms of individual countries, many Nordic nations, such as Sweden, rank high when it comes to women parliamentarians. The highest percentage of women representatives is found in Rwanda, however, where more than half of the total seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament are female. The United States ranks 104th on the list, just ahead of Tajikistan.
Although the report gives insight on the level of gender equality in government, it is not necessarily a perfect barometer for the status of women’s rights in these nations. Rwanda, for instance, continues to struggle with a high prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, as well as longstanding patriarchal norms.
There are also varying reasons for the differing levels of women in parliaments, including quota systems that a number of countries have in place to increase female representation. In 2016, nations with gender-based quotas that held elections saw women gain 25.6 percent of seats compared with 16.1 percent of seats in countries without such quotas.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union report calls for more ambitious measures to work towards women’s representation in parliaments, highlighting how some regions such as Latin America have begun promoting the goal of 50-50 gender parity. It also noted many of the deeply damaging attitudes towards female politicians in the last year, and “vile harassment” that women in power face.
“In 2016, misogynistic and sexist sentiments also permeated public and private spaces as women staked claim to political leadership,” the report says.
“This behavior reveals the extent to which women still struggle to be considered legitimate political actors.”