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Record number of women in US Congress but still behind European Parliament

Women make up 28% of all members of the US Congress after the midterm elections– the highest percentage in US history, Pew Research Center data shows. This is still far less than in the European parliament where it is 39.3% and none of them is even close to 50/50.

“While the European Parliament stands for gender equality, women continue to be under-represented in politics and public life at local, national and European level, as shown by recent data”, the European Parliament says.

Over the years, the percentage of female member of the European Parliament has increased. Only 31 women were members of the European Parliament from 1952 until the first elections in 1979. In the first directly-elected European Parliament representation of women stood at 15.2%. The percentage of female members has gone up with each election. 

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Currently, 39.3% of MEPs are now women. This is above the world average for national parliaments and also above the EU average for national parliaments.

Since January 2022, the European Parliament is presided over by a woman: Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola. In the current ninth parliamentary term, eight of the 14 vice-presidents are women, more than in the previous term when there were five.

Counting both the US House of Representatives and the Senate, women account for 153 of 540 voting and nonvoting members of Congress. That represents a 59% increase from the 96 women who were serving in the 112th Congress a decade ago, though it remains far below women’s share of the overall U.S. population. 

A record 128 women are serving in the newly elected House, accounting for 29% of the chamber’s total. In the Senate, women hold 25 of 100 seats, tying the record number they held in the 116th Congress.

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“The 2022 midterm elections sent nearly two dozen new congresswomen to the House, including Becca Balint, a Vermont Democrat who became both the first woman and openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from the state. Of the 22 freshman representatives who are women, 15 are Democrats and seven are Republicans”, Pew Research’s compilation says.

The Senate gained just one new female member: Republican Katie Britt, who became the first woman senator from Alabama.

Women make up a much larger share of congressional Democrats (41%) than Republicans (16%). Across both chambers, there are 109 Democratic women and 44 Republican women in the new Congress. Women account for 43% of House Democrats and 31% of Senate Democrats, compared with 16% of House Republicans and 18% of Senate Republicans. Still, the number of GOP women in the House is at its highest total yet: 35, up from 30 in January 2021, when the 117th Congress began.

In 2019, two EU institutions broke the glass ceiling and got their first ever female president.

Ursula von der Leyen became president of the European Commission with a College of Commissioners comprising 12 women and 14 men.

Christine Lagarde became president of the European Central Bank, backed by the European Parliament, which has been calling for more women in high-level posts in economic and monetary affairs.

Economic decision-making continues to be the area where the EU scores the lowest in terms of gender equality and women’s representation, according to the European Parliament.

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