Indicator 43. Percentage of seats held by women and minorities in national parliament and/or sub-national elected office according to their respective share of the population (modified MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

This modified MDG Indicator measures the ratio of the percentage of seats held by women and minorities1  (including indigenous people) in legislative bodies (national, regional, local) divided by their respective population share. It demonstrates the extent to which women and minorities have equal access to key decision-making positions within formal political processes. Participation in elected office is a key aspect of women’s and minorities’ opportunities in political and public life, and is therefore linked to their empowerment. Their presence in decision-making bodies alters dynamics and can help bring to light women’s and minorities’ concerns.


Further opportunities for disaggregation to be reviewed.

Comments and limitations:

This indicator cannot measure actual political decision-making power, and women and minorities can still face many obstacles in carrying out their political mandates.2 Also, it cannot be assumed that because there are more women and/or minorities in parliament that they will automatically promote gender or minority issues.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Administrative data.

Potential lead agency or agencies:

Data on women in national parliament is readily obtainable from national sources and from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Data on women in city, state or provincial level elected office are less available. The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Standing Committee on Gender Equality has started gathering information on women councilors and mayors.3 Data on minorities are generally less available, so a significant effort would need to be made to collect such disaggregated data.

  1. Minorities are here defined as a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a State, in a non-dominant position, whose members – being nationals of the State – possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language.

  2. United Nations (2003), p.30.

  3. See website of the UCLG Standing Committee on Gender Equality.