Visualizing the data: Women’s representation in society

Women’s full and equal participation in all facets of society is a fundamental human right. Yet, around the world, from politics to entertainment to the workplace, women and girls are largely underrepresented.


Women’s political representation globally has doubled in the last 25 years. But, this only amounts to around 1 in 4 women in parliament today. That leaves more than three quarters of seats controlled by men.

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union (Data as of 1 January 2020); Report of the UN Secretary-General E/CN.6/2020/3


In June 2019, the Fortune 500 hit a milestone with the most women CEOs on record. While every gain is a win, the sum as a whole is a bleak picture: Out of the 500 chief executives leading the highest-grossing firms, just under 7 per cent are women.

Source: Fortune 500 (Data as of 1 June 2019); Catalyst; Report of the UN Secretary-General E/CN.6/2020/3

Culture and sciences

Bestowed annually to recognize intellectual achievement and academic, cultural and scientific advances, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to more than 900 individuals in the course of its history from 1901 to 2019. Only 53 of the winners have been women, 19 in the categories of physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine. Marie Curie became the first female laureate in 1903, when she and her husband won a joint Prize for physics. Eight years later she was solely awarded the Chemistry Prize, making her the only woman in history to win the Nobel Prize twice. Although women have been behind a number of scientific discoveries throughout history, just 30 per cent of researchers worldwide and 35 per cent of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields of study are women.

Source: The Nobel Foundation (Data as of 2019); Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot 2019, UN Women


When it comes to equality of men and women in news media, progress has virtually ground to a halt. According to the largest study on the portrayal, participation and representation of women in the news media spanning 20 years and 114 countries, only 24 per cent of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news are women. A glass ceiling also exists for women news reporters in newspaper bylines and newscast reports, with 37 per cent of stories reported by women as of 2015, showing no change over the course of a decade. Despite the democratizing promise of digital media, women’s poor representation in traditional news media is also reflected in digital news, with women making up only 26 per cent of the people in Internet news stories and media news tweets. Only 4 per cent of traditional news and digital news stories clearly challenge gender stereotypes. Among other factors, stereotypes and the significant underrepresentation of women in the media play a significant role in shaping harmful attitudes of disrespect and violence towards women.

Source: The Global Media Monitoring Project (Data as of 2015); Report of the UN Secretary-General E/CN.6/2020/3


Like other forms of media, film and television have a powerful influence in shaping cultural perceptions and attitudes towards gender and are key to shifting the narrative for the gender equality agenda. Yet, an analysis of popular films across 11 countries found, for example, that 31 per cent of all speaking characters were women and that only 23 per cent featured a female protagonist — a number that closely mirrored the percentage of women filmmakers (21 per cent).

Source: The Official Academy Awards® Database (Data as of 2020)
A Brief History of the Palme d’Or, Cannes Film Festival (Data as of 2019)


Sports has the power to inspire change and break gender stereotypes — and women have been doing just that decade after decade, showing that they are just as capable, resilient and strong as men physically, but also strategically, as leaders and game changers (Generation Equality pro tip: Watch Billie Jean King’s history-altering tennis match Battle of the Sexes).

Source: The International Olympic Committee (Data as of 2020)

Culinary arts

Despite women being prescribed stereotypical roles in the kitchen at home, the upper echelons of the restaurant industry have remained relatively closed to female chefs. As detailed in the documentary A Fine Line, women must often overcome active discrimination and navigate a culture that both glorifies masculinity and tacitly condones harassment. Paired with long, unpredictable and inflexible working hours, unfriendly family and childcare policies and lower salaries, women face enormous challenges when entering the restaurant business. The numbers match the story: Today, just under 4 per cent of chefs with three Michelin stars (the highest rating you can get) from the prominent restaurant guide are women.

Source: Michelin (Data as of 2019)



UN Women is the United Nations entity for #genderequality and women's empowerment.

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UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations entity for #genderequality and women's empowerment.