However, these female leadership benefits will remain largely unrealized all the while the world tolerates such low levels of female leadership in national and international institutions. In fact, there is a crisis of women’s leadership in the world – a Female Leadership Deficit – that could be costing hundreds of billions of dollars in foregone development gains every year. Currently, just 13% of governments, 4% of major corporations, 14% of leading universities, and 2% of the world’s religions are led by women. To put this in perspective, just 25 of 193 government leaders are currently female (14 are Head of Government and 11 Head of State), 7 of the top 200 global companies are run by women, 28 of the world’s top 200 universities are run by women, and just four of 167 religious leaders are women.
The 25 governments with either female heads of government or state include mostly high income countries (Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Norway, Malta, Croatia, UK, Estonia, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, Serbia, Taiwan, Aruba, Sint Maarten, and Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados), although low and middle-income Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, Namibia, Marshall Islands, Serbia, and Romania also have female heads of government or state.
Interestingly, six of the seven female CEOs are from the USA, as are 12 of the 28 university leaders (14 are from Europe). As low as these proportions are, they are even lower for women who have children, revealing a massive deficit of mothers among our most powerful public leaders. Our own analysis of motherhood and power in the USA, China, Russia, and India revealed that just 39 of the 640 most powerful positions are held by leaders who are also mothers. That’s a rate of 6%. Just six out of every 100 of the most powerful jobs across these nations are currently held by women with children. The complete results are presented in the Motherhood+Public Power Index 2018.
The lack of women among the world’s most powerful leaders is reflected in the very low scores for political empowerment in the Global Gender Gap Index. In 2017, the Index reported that the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide. Only 58% of the economic participation gap has been closed and about 23% of the political gap, in contrast to 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men and more than 95% of the gap in educational attainment, among the 144 countries covered.
One of the reasons so few women currently lead governments is because of the low proportion of women parliamentarians. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only three countries, Rwanda, Cuba, and Bolivia, have achieved at least 50% female parliamentarians in their lower houses of Parliament. Among regions, the Nordic countries score highest with 42% female parliamentarians, compared to 30% in the Americas, 27% in Europe, 24% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 20% in Asia and the Middle East and just 16% in the Pacific.