Women in Parliament and Government

Published Thursday, July 16, 2015

191 women MPs were elected at the 2015 General Election, 29% of all MPs and a record high. Prior to 1987 women had never been more than 5% of MPs. 450 women have been elected to the Commons since 1918, nine less than the current number of male MPs.

Jump to full report >>

191 women MPs were elected at the 2015 General Election, 29% of all MPs and a record high.

194 women, 25%, are Members of the House of Lords.

35% of members in the Scottish Parliament are women, compared to 40% of members of National Assembly for Wales. 

Following the 2014 European Parliament elections, women comprised just over two-fifths of UK MEPs.

32% of local authority councillors in England and 28% of county councillors in Wales are women, as of 2013. Women comprised 24% of councillors elected in Scotland in 2012.

Since 1918, 450 women have been elected as Members of the House of Commons. In 1918 Countess Constance Markievicz became the first women to be elected as an MP though, elected for Sinn Féin, she did not take her seat. Nancy Astor was the first women to sit in the House of Commons, in 1919. The total number of women to have been elected to the House since 1918 remains lower than the number of men (459) in the current Parliament. 

The number of women candidates has risen at every general election since 1966 except in 2001, when there were 36 fewer women candidates than in 1997. In the 2015 General Election 1,033 women candidates stood across all parties, 26% of all candidates. This is both the highest number and percentage on record.

Currently, seven out of 22 Cabinet Posts (32%) are held by women. In addition there are eight Ministers who also attend Cabinet, three of whom are women.

Margaret Bondfield was the first ever woman appointed to cabinet in 1929. Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first woman Prime Minister in 1979.

Internationally, there are ten women Presidents and seven Prime Ministers. Rwanda has the highest percentage of women parliamentarians followed by Bolivia, Cuba and the Seychelles; the Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks the UK 36th out of 190 countries. 

This note shows how the number of women in Parliament has changed since 1918, when women first became eligible to be elected as MPs.  It presents comparative data for women in Parliament and other elected bodies in the UK and internationally.  It also looks at some milestones over the last 100 years for women in Parliament and Government in the UK.


Commons Briefing papers SN01250

Authors: Richard Keen; Richard Cracknell

Topics: Elections, Equality, House of Commons, House of Lords, Members of Parliament, Members of the Lords, Ministers, Parliament

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.