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

This briefing presents statistics on a range of positions in UK politics and public life, held by women. Data on the demographic characteristics of different workforces tends to be limited, so it is not possible to include intersectional analysis (such as of disabled women).

UK Parliament and Government

There are 220 women MPs in the House of Commons. At 34%, this is an all-time high. The proportion of women grew slowly until a jump in the 1990s, as shown in the chart below.

Women MPs elected by general election

Since 1918, 552 women have been elected to the House of Commons; 55% were first elected as Labour MPs and 31% as Conservatives.

There are 223 female Peers – 28% of the Members of the House of Lords.

Five ministers in the current Cabinet (23%) are women. The highest proportion of women in Cabinet was 36% between 2006 and 2007.

Devolved legislatures and local government

47% of Members of the Welsh Parliament are women, as are 36% of the Scottish Parliament and 36% of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

About 36% of local authority councillors in England are women. 26% of councillors in Northern Ireland are women. The proportion rose to 29% in Scotland after the 2017 elections and sits at 28% in Wales.

40% of members of the London Assembly are women.

International comparisons

In January 2021, there were 10 women serving as Head of State and 13 serving as Head of Government. At 34%, the UK is in 38th position for the proportion of women in the lower (or only) house of parliament.

Rwanda has over 61%. Cuba also has a female majority in parliament. In the European Parliament, 41% of MEPs are women.

Public life

The proportion of women in public sector roles has increased in the past decades. Most recent data show that 44% of public appointments were women, as were 54% of civil servants, 32% of judges, 11% of the armed forces, 77% of NHS workers, 86% of nursery and primary school teachers and 31% of police officers.

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