The Women in Public Service Project is pursuing the goal of 50x50: 50% representation of women in policy and political leadership by 2050. This ambitious vision is only achievable through data-driven solutions and partnerships to understand the reality of women’s leadership in government and to advocate for meaningful change. Explore the numbers at

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Darker blue regions indicate higher proportion of women on boards compared to women on cabinets; darker orange regions indicate higher proportion of women on cabinets compared to women on boards. Neutral regions indicate little or no gap between representation on boards and cabinets. 


The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Report shows that the efforts to close the gaps for women in political participation lags severely while the economic opportunity gap has widened rather than closed. Despite both the normative and “good business” arguments that support efforts towards parity, women are still seeking to overcome barriers to leadership in both the public and private sectors. Research published by Ernst and Young shows that across G20 countries, only four reached 30% of women in leadership positions in the public sector. Similarly, the European Union reports that across Europe women make up only 21% of private sector boards.

It is no question that reaching gender parity in decision-making positions remains a challenge across the globe. By using the data to examine the full landscape of leadership and compare representation within sectors, we develop a more comprehensive understanding of both the barriers and opportunities for leadership each sector presents.

While measuring the proportion of women on cabinets and boards is limited, it gives us a different angle with which to understand the varied dimensions of gender parity in a country. Just because a country boasts high proportion of women in one sector does not seem to translate across to other sectors. From this data, there appears no clear trend between the gender gap in the private sector and the gender gap in the public sector. However, this data demonstrates that country-specific factors shape paths to leadership. We must ask the question: why is representation disproportionately facilitated in one particular sector in a given country?

In order to fully understand the factors driving women’s leadership, we must identify the opportunities present in sectors that have achieved greater representation. Although there is no clear trend linking public and private leadership, there are most certainly lessons that can be learned from both. 

The data in this brief is courtesy of WPSP Data Partner Boardwalk Leadership. Boardwalk Leadership is a niche training and research consultancy with global reach, specializing in gender diversity and inclusion working across different sectors. Building on cutting-edge research combined with innovative and sustainable leadership training Boardwalk Leadership creates sustainable change.