Women and politics: the origins of gender inequality in the foundations of our democracy

April 26, 2020

When we reflect on how gender inequality manifests itself in our societies, we often think of strong ideas illustrated by impactful numbers such as the gender pay gap or the number of victims of domestic violence. These topics are often referred to when highlighting gender inequalities in our countries, but another very important aspect of our societies is an arena of this injustice: politics.


On the 1st of December 2019, the most equal European Commission ever formed was entering into office. Led by a woman and accompanied by a record number of women elected to democratic bodies, the European Union of 2019 seemed to be making great progress towards greater equality in politics – but how representative is this of what is happening in European society?


How equal are EU political institutions?

The EU has made substantial progress towards more representative gender balance in its institutions. As stated before, in 2019 Ursula von der Leyen became the first woman to be appointed president of the EU Commission. Leading a more - though yet not wholly - equal commission (12 women against 16 men) and accompanied by Christine Lagarde as president of the ECB, women are increasingly holding important roles within the European Union. Following the May 2019 elections, women now account for 40.3% of the MEPs, against 37% during the previous term; but this representation is not consistent across all member states. For example, 55% of Swedish MEPs are women, but Cyprus elected an entirely male cohort. Seven countries achieved perfect parity.



Percentage of women MEPs by country in 2009 and in 2019, Source: