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In both politics and public life in the UK, women have historically been underrepresented. In recent years 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 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 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).

At the time of writing, Women make up 31% of parliamentarians. There are 225 female MPs in the House of Commons and 237 in the House of Lords. Female representation is slightly higher in the Commons than the Lords, at 35% and 29% respectively.

Chart showing the proportion of women in both the House of Commons and House of Lords

Source: Members’ Names Information Service

Female MPs elected

The number of female MPs has been growing. Following the 2019 General Election, 220 MPs were women. At 34%, this was an all-time high. The proportion of women grew slowly until a jump in 1997.

Between 1918 and 2023, 561 different women have been elected to the House of Commons; 55% were first elected as Labour MPs and 31% as Conservatives.

Chart showing that the proportion of women elected at general elections since 1979 has been increasing.

Source: Rallings and Thrasher, British Electoral Facts 1832-206, 2012; House of Commons Library briefing papers (various years): General Election 2010, 2015, 2017, 2019.


Seven ministers in the current Cabinet are women, representing 30%. 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.

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 2023, globally there were 19 women serving as Head of State and 16 serving as Head of Government.

With women making up 35% of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom is ranked 48thfor 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 ministerial positions was 16% in 2022, compared with 30% in the UK.

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

Women in public life

The proportion of women in public sector roles has increased in the past decades. The most recent statistics, show that 49% of public appointments were women, as were 55% of civil servants, 31% of judges, 11% of the Armed Forces, 76% of NHS workers, 76% of state-funded schoolteachers and 34% of police officers.

Across these organisations women tend to be in more junior roles, although the proportion of senior roles held by women has been steadily increasing.

Chart showing the percentage of the workforce of different public bodies and sector that are women.

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. 

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