The female leadership benefits just described 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 7% of governments, 4.5% of major corporations, 14% of leading universities, and 2% of the world’s religions are led by women. To put this in perspective, just 14 of 193 government leaders are currently female, nine of the top 200 global companies are run by women, 28 of the world’s leading universities are run by women and just four of 167 religious leaders are women. The 14 female-led governments include mostly higher income countries (Argentina, Denmark, Chile, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago), although middle- income Brazil, Jamaica and Peru, and low-income Bangladesh and Liberia are also led by women. Interestingly, all nine of the 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 United States revealed that just 10% of the most powerful 160 positions across government, business, academia and religions are currently filled by mothers. In China, the numbers are even lower – 4%. The complete results are presented in the Motherhood+Public Power Index 2016.
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 2016, the Index reported that 80% of the gap for political empowerment remains to be closed, compared to 40% for economic participation and opportunity, 5% for educational attainment, and 4% for health and survival. 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 two countries (Rwanda and Bolivia) have achieved 50% female parliamentarians. Among regions, the Nordic countries score highest with 40% female parliamentarians, compared to 28% in the Americas, 25% in Europe, 23% in sub-Saharan Africa, 20% in Asia and the Middle East and just 14% in the Pacific. Not surprisingly, women also hold few ministerial positions in governments in the vast majority of countries. Only 16 countries, 11 of them in Europe, have more than 40% female ministers including Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Iceland and France. Many of the countries with the steepest development challenges have less than 15% of female ministers, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Chad, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Yemen and Niger.