Our most recent elections have deemed 2019 “the year of the woman.” A record breaking 36 new women won seats to the House last November, joining the ring of 66 female representatives re-elected. Most of these women are now replacing men who had occupied the seats before them. What’s more, researchers predict there will be at least 102 women in the House next year, making it the largest number in US history. (Lu & Collins, 2018)
This is a revolutionary step for women striving to find a voice in politics. Women now have the chance to push for public policies that support children, social welfare, and national security. Studies indicate that women govern differently from men (Miller, 2016). A new analysis from the Political Science Research and Methods found that women are more likely to sponsor bills in favor of civil right, health and education (Miller, 2016). These are areas that, now more than ever, need more support and attention.
My interest in female representation in parliament inspired the visualisations depicted in this report (fig 1). In effort to illustrate the rising number of women in parliament, I created a line graph tracing the global trend from 1990 to 2018. In order to detail the trend across distinct regions of the modern world, I created a map demonstrating the differences in female representation based on location. Lastly, I designed a bar graph in effort to compare the proportion of women in parliament by subcontinent. As a result, my visualizations reveal that the rising trend of women in parliament is scattered and often sparse in many regions of the world.
This investigation aims to uncover the evolution of women in parliament beyond the scope of the US. Gender quotas are now being adopted by more and more countries across the world, in effort to dedicate a percentage of seats in parliament to women (Radu, 2018). This inspired me to investigate the data surrounding female representation in global parliaments. My research was guided by three main questions:
- What is the global trend of women in parliament?
- Which regions of the world are most supportive of women in politics?
- In which countries are women most underrepresented in parliament?
To answer these questions, I consulted the UNdata website to gather published statistics on women in parliament. Under gender topics, I discovered a data set detailing the number of seats held by women in national parliament.
UNdata – a data source website retrieving data series from statistical databases provided by the UN System.
Microsoft Excel- a spreadsheet software used for recording and editing data information.
Tableau– a software that produces interactive data visualizations based on imported data sets.
The data set I encountered on UNdata was large, running more than 1,000 lines down on excel. The percentage of seats held by women in national parliament was recorded for the years 1990, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2014 – 2018. I downloaded the csv document on excel and removed any excessive information, such as the columns measuring the total proportion counted for all countries each year. I also created a new column to differentiate the list of regions by country, continent, and sub-continent so that I could filter the data easily on Tableau.
Before deciding how to visualize the dataset, I searched for inspirations online to help determine the most effective graphs to represent my data. I tried to find an effective way of communicating the worldwide progress towards including more women in government positions.
I found that line graphs are most effective in communicating a distinct pattern over time. ILO data, for example, is effective is demonstrating how the gender gap percentage has uniformly declined among various countries (fig 2).
I also discovered that vertical bar charts can help me depict direct comparisons between different regions of the world. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, manages to compare different countries’ public views on the public sector using an elaborate bar graph (fig 3).
Lastly, I found that maps can help viewers differentiate the degrees to which a trend is occuring in separate regions of the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit, for example, highlights the difference in women’s economic opportunity based on geographic region using the following map (fig 4).
Based on my research, I decided to formulate my data into three types of graphs: a bar graph, a line graph, and a map. I uploaded my cleaned up data on Tableau and began dragging, dropping and filtering data elements to create the following visualizations:
The following line graph illustrates the rising presence of women in parliaments all across the world (fig 5). The graph filters the data set by continent so that the rate of growth can be easily compared across different regions of the world. The positive trend is apparent in all four continents.
The bar graph attempts to compare the proportion of women in parliament by subcontinent (fig 6). I ordered the content by value, so that readers can immediately pick up the regions with highest and lowest percentage of women in parliament. The table demonstrates that Western Europe has the leading number of women elected in parliament in 2018, whereas Malenasia falls behind with only 3.5% female representation.
The map illustrates the the volume of women in parliament based on location (fig 7). Viewers can quickly locate countries and determine which have the highest percent of women in parliament according to the intensity/hue of the purple color. According to this map, countries in Northern Europe have the most intense hue, indicating they have the highest proportion of women in parliament.
Women in positions of power are still rare to find on the global political map, despite the apparent rising trend. The data analysed in this report suggest that there is still a low proportion of women represented in parliaments across the world. The bar graph demonstrates that only 34% of seats in parliament are occupied by women in Western Europe, which has the highest representation rate out of all subcontinents. The dimly-colored map also supports the fact that women remain underrepresented in parliaments across the world. Although more countries are introducing “gender quotas” to reserve around 30% of seats in parliament for women, female representation worldwide is still below that percentage (Radu, 2018).
In hindsight, I would have liked to assess data that included the number of women running for election. Part of the reason why female representation in parliament is low is because not many women are being put forward for election by parties. In Britain, for instance, political parties are failing to open up and publish data about the political gender and diversity gap across elections (Pankhurst, 2018). This has impacted the turnout of female electoral candidates.
Additionally, I think it would be interesting to see how female representation in parliament compares male. This added variable would enable me to create more complex and dynamic graphs.
Lu, D., & Collins, K. (2018, November 09). ‘Year of the Woman’ Indeed: Record Gains in the House. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/09/us/women-elected-midterm-elections.html
Miller, C. C. (2016, November 10). Women Actually Do Govern Differently. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/upshot/women-actually-do-govern-differently.html
Radu, S. (2018, September 4). The Women in Parliament. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-09-04/women-are-still-underrepresented-in-parliaments-around-the-world
Pankhurst, H. (2018, November 20). 100 years on, female MPs are still too few | Letter. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/20/100-years-on-female-mps-are-still-too-few