However, these female leadership benefits will remain largely unrealized all the while the world tolerates such low levels of female leadership in national, regional, 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, 5% of major corporations, 21% of leading universities, and 2% of the world’s religions are led by women.
To put this in perspective, just 13 of 193 heads of government and 9 of 152 heads of state are currently female (International Parliamentary Union), 24 of the top 500 global companies are run by women (Fortune Global 500), 41 of the world’s top 200 universities are run by women (Times Higher Education), and just four of 167 religious institutions are run by women (Wikipedia).
Most (13) of the 22 governments with either female heads of government or state include are high-income countries (Barbados, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, and Trinidad and Tobago) and seven middle-income countries have a woman at the helm (Bangladesh, Gabon, Georgia, Moldova, Nepal, Peru, Serbia). However, only two low-income countries do – Ethiopia and Togo.
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 2022, the Index reported that the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide. Only 60% of the economic participation gap has been closed and about 22% of the political gap, in contrast to 95% of the gender gaps in health outcomes and educational attainment, among the 146 countries covered.