Politics in Minutes (2016)

Women in power

In 1979, more than 60 years since women first gained the vote, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first woman prime minister. However, since antiquity a number of strong-minded women have held powerful positions, either because of birth – Hatshepsut, Queen Elizabeth 1 and Queen Victoria – or as a result of fighting through male-dominated political structures – Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi and Benazir Bhutto (opposite). Yet these women are exceptions; by and large women remain under-represented in all governments.

In 2015, only 20 per cent of parliamentarians and 15 heads of government were women, and only 20 per cent of local government officials were female. In the UK, only one in five MPs are women, and there have been strenuous attempts to encourage more women into politics. Evidence indicates that female politicians face sexual harassment and discrimination on a daily basis, and unless these practices and the institutions themselves are reformed, women will be slow to take part.