Here’s What Happens When You Put More Women in Government

Source: Time

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines Wednesday when he announced that half of his Cabinet ministers are female, a decision he justified with the simple explanation that “it’s 2015.” The move won him international praise and more than a few swoons.

Canada isn’t the first country to take steps to increase women’s representation in government. The countries with the most female lawmakers have made major strides on issues such as education, labor force participation, and paid leave. Each of the countries below has either a parliament or a ministry that is at least 50% female, while the U.S. Congress is still only 19% women, and only four of Obama’s 15 cabinet members female.


“We know that companies with more gender balanced leadership teams significantly outperform companies with only men at the helm,” says Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of Twenty first, a consulting company that focuses in building gender-balanced businesses. “Why wouldn’t this be even more true at a country level?” Here are a few examples of countries with lots of women in government who are outperforming the U.S. on various levels:

The Swedish ministry is 52% female and their parliament is 43% women. So it shouldn’t be any surprise the Sweden is regularly held up as an example of a paradise for working women. Their public benefits assume a dual-income family where both men and women are working and contributing at home, and as a result they have the among the highest female employment in the E.U. and almost the lowest child poverty. Both parents are entitled to 16 months of paid family leave (to be divided as a couple,) with 13 months of that leave paid at 80% of their income and the rest at a flat rate. Compare that to the U.S. policies, where the absence of paid family leave causes enormous stress for women and families, and often leads women to drop out of the workforce altogether.

In Rwanda, the parliament is almost 64% female, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and for tragic reasons. After the country was ripped apart by genocide in 1994, Rwanda found itself with a population that was 70% female, since thousands of men were killed in bloodshed between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups (of the 780 judges in the country before the massacre, only 20 survived.) Before the genocide, women hold only 10-15% of parliament seats, according to the Harvard Kennedy School, but the massacre of so many men created a power vacuum that Rwandan women quickly filled.

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Categories: Women

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