Documents to download

In both politics and public life in the UK, women have historically been underrepresented. In recent years, however, women’s representation has increased, although in most cases men remain overrepresented, especially in more senior positions.

This briefing presents statistics on a range of positions held by women in UK politics and public life. Data on the demographic characteristics of different workforces tends to be limited, so it is not always possible to include intersectional analysis, for example, on disabled women or women from minority ethnic groups. 

UK Parliament and Government

In 2022, Liz Truss MP became Britain’s third female Prime Minister, following Baroness Thatcher (1979-1990) and Theresa May MP (2016-2019).

Currently there are 226 female MPs in the House of Commons and 238 female members of the House of Lords. In the Commons women make up 35% of MPs and in the Lords 29%. Together, women make up 32% of members of the Commons and Lords.

After 1918 when women became eligible to be MPs, the number grew slowly until a jump in 1997 when 120 women were elected. Since then, the number of female MPs has continued to grow. Following the 2019 general election, 220 MPs were women. At 34%, this was an all-time high.

Between 1918 and 2023, there were 564 individual women elected to the House of Commons; 55% were first elected as Labour MPs and 31% as Conservative.

Seven ministers in the current Cabinet are women, representing 30%. The highest proportion of women in Cabinet was 36% between 2006 and 2007.

Source: Members’ Names Information Service

Devolved legislatures and local government

Women make up 43% of Members of the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament, 46% of the Scottish Parliament and 37% of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Around 41% of local authority councillors in England are women. In Northern Ireland, around 26% of councillors are women, in Scotland it is 35% and in Wales, 28%.

52% of members of the London Assembly are women.

International comparisons

In February 2024 there were 19 women serving as head of state and 15 serving as head of government.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, with women making up 35% of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom ranks 48th globally  for the proportion of women in the lower (or only) house of parliament. Rwanda, Cuba and Nicaragua have the highest female representation.

The UK was the fourth country to elect women to Parliament, doing so in 1918, the same year as Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The global average share of women in cabinet minister positions was 23% in 2023 according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, compared with 30% in the UK.

In the European Parliament, 41% of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected in the 2019 elections were women. However, after the seat changes due to Brexit, as of February 2020, 40% of MEPs were women.

Women in public life

The proportion of women in public sector roles has increased in the past decades.

The most recent statistics, given in the chart below, show that 76% of teachers in state-funded schools and 76% of NHS workers were women, as were 55% of civil servants, 49% of public appointments, 42% of judges, 35% of police officers and 12% of the armed forces.

Source: House of Commons Library consolidated analysis. For full sources see below or download the full briefing. 

Selected sources:

See document for a full list of sources. 

Documents to download

Related posts