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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 currently 225 female MPs in the House of Commons. At 35%, this is an all-time high. The proportion of women grew slowly until a jump in 1997, as shown in the chart below.

Since 1918, 559 women have been elected to the House of Commons; 55% were first elected as Labour MPs and 31% as Conservatives.

There are 229 female Members of the House of Lords, making up 28%.

Six ministers in the current Cabinet (27%) are women. The highest proportion of women in Cabinet was 36% between 2006 and 2007.

Devolved legislatures and local government

43% of Members of the Welsh Parliament are women, along with 46% of the Scottish Parliament and 37% of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

About 41% of local authority councillors in England are women. 26% of councillors in Northern Ireland are women, 35% in Scotland and 28% in Wales.

52% of members of the London Assembly are women.

International comparisons

In February 2022, there were 10 women serving as Head of State and 14 serving as Head of Government. At 34%, the UK is in 45th position for the proportion of women in the lower (or only) house of parliament as of February 2022. 

Rwanda has over 61%. Cuba and Nicaragua also have a female majority in parliament. 41% of MEPs elected at the 2019 European Parliament elections were women. However, after the seat changes due to Brexit, 40% of MEPs were female as of February 2020.

Public life

The proportion of women in public sector roles has increased in the past decades. The most recent data shows that 45% of public appointments were women, as were 54% of civil servants, 34% of judges, 11% of the armed forces, 77% of NHS workers, 86% of nursery and primary school teachers and 32% of police officers.

Selected sources:

See document for a full list of sources. 

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