Female representation in positions of power has been a topic of interest for many decades. Especially this year, with the United States presidential election approaching, I thought this would be a great topic to explore further right now. Being from Bangladesh, where the prime minister has been a woman for most of my life time, I have consistently seen a woman at the highest level of authority in our National Parliament. The fact that the US (which was the definition of progressive in my mind) is yet to have a female president, was always difficult for me to understand. With this research I was curious to find out which countries have the most female representation in their national parliaments and how female representation in national parliaments has changed over the years.
Process + Tools
The dataset used for this research was found on UNdata and put together by the United Nations Statistics Division. The dataset, Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament, shows the proportion of seats in percentage as of February each year for a set of 9 years (1990, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015-2019). The data is also categorized by countries, regions and areas. However, for this analysis only countries and years were used as categorical dimensions.
A CSV file of the dataset was downloaded from the UNdata site and uploaded to Google Sheets to separate relevant fields from ones that were not required for this analysis. The data was then uploaded to Tableau Public and 3 visualizations were created on the desktop version of Tableau. On Tableau, some countries names needed to be edited (For example, “Dem. Rep.” had to be expanded to Democratic Republic) in order for them to be recognized by the software. The dataset was consistent and clean otherwise, and did not need to be refined further.
The 3 visualizations created were placed on a dashboard with corresponding text and the result was published on Tableau online.
The 3 visualizations created were a color coded map (cloropleth), a bar graph and a line graph set. All three visualizations were made interactive so that the user is able to conduct their own comparisons based on curiosity the same way I wanted to conduct mine.
A Cloropleth was chosen as the first visualization as it allows the user to see the big picture before diving deeper into the subject. The color concentration allows us to understand which areas of the world had more female representation in their parliament and which had less. The darker colored areas had a higher percentage of women represented in their parliament and vice versa, as indicated by the index. Instructions were added to make the user aware of the interactive element so that they can view how the distribution changed over the years.
In the image comparison above, we can clearly see that the overall representation of females in parliament is much higher in 2019 than it was in 2010. We are also able to deduce that more women were consistently represented by countries in South America, southern tip of Africa and northern Europe compared to other parts of the world.
A bar graph showing the top 10 countries with female representation in parliament was created as the second visualization. This was also made interactive in order to allow the user to view which countries were in the top 10 over the years and whether their positions changed or not. From creating this particular chart I learned that Rwanda has held the highest position consistently since 2005, which was both new and unexpected to me. This visualization answered one of my research questions while also producing results I had not expected as someone who had not previously conducted research on this particular subject. Therefore I believe it could be a useful and educational tool for many others out there.
The final visualization was a set of line graphs representing the change in seats held by women in parliament over the last 5 years. This categorical limit was chosen as the data from before 2015 did not show significant changes. This chart was made interactive similar to the previous ones to give users some control over what they wanted to view. As my research questions came up from comparing my home country with another, I wanted to create a tool that allowed users to view specific comparisons based on their curiosity or purpose. As shown in the image above, the user can select multiple countries from a down down menu to see how their results compare. For example, I was able to deduce that Bangladesh has consistently had more female representation in their parliament compared to the US, till the 2018 elections.
The interactive line graph can also be used to view the progress of one country over the years. For example, as in the image above, I selected Armenia and found out that they recently had a huge growth in their female representation in parliament. In 2018 the proportion of seats held by women in Armenia almost doubled.
The color palette was chosen as such because it is recognizable as branding used in activism and work related to women’s rights. The high saturation allowed for multiple values to be clearly visible next to each other, specially in the case of the map.
When looking for similar sets of visualizations related to representation of women, I found a UN article titled Women’s representation in society. Although this article focuses on the overall representation of women in society, they begin with a section on the representation of women in parliaments worldwide. One way that my visualizations differ from those in this article is by giving users control based on their interest. Instead of learning worldwide figures, users are able to view details by each country and conduct comparisons due to the interactivity.
By creating visualizations of the dataset I found, I was able to find answers to my research questions and also learn other relevant information in the process. Based on the amount of tools available on Tableau and the amount of data I found, I conclude that this research could be expanded further in many ways. There could be further visualizations that focused more in detail on individual countries or particular areas of the parliament. An HDI (Human Development Index) dataset could be added to find out whether or how the development of countries relates to their representation of women in parliament.
As a tool, I found that Tableau took some time and practice to get used to but it allowed me to have detailed control over how to represent the data I found. As a designer who creates and appreciates interactive products, I enjoyed the ability to make visualizations interactive and give users some amount of control. I found that the limits of the software lie in the users ability to stylistically customize the visualizations. For example, in the case of the cloropleth and bar graph, I was unable to control the contrast between each step of the color. It was predetermined based on my main color. In the case of the line graph, I had to choose from default color palettes instead of creating my own and therefore could not keep it perfectly cohesive with the other two visualizations. However, I thought Tableau was a helpful tool overall.