Have you ever wondered how many women there are in parliaments across the world?
The funny thing is (and it’s not actually that funny) that there’s no definitive answer to that question.
Sure, many countries publish their own figures. But not all of them do.
If you do find data, you’ll come across a couple of problems. First, it’s scattered all over the web, in a variety of formats – PDFs, web pages, spreadsheets, tables…. that makes it hard to compare like with like, or to create projects that work across several countries.
And then, while you may be able to see the man-to-woman breakdown as an overall figure, those numbers aren’t attached to specific politicians. It’s all very well to know that there are, say, 40 women and 100 men in a parliament, but only if you can say ‘these people are women, and these people also spoke in these debates or voted in these ways’ can you draw meaningful conclusions about what it means to have women in positions of power.
We’ve got questions
Because, once you start thinking about it you realise that, with the right datasets, you could start asking some pretty interesting questions. Questions like:
- Which country was the first to allow women into parliament, and which was the last? Which legislature has the most women, and which the least?
- Do things change when women enter parliaments? Are debates longer or shorter? Kinder or harsher?
- Do women vote differently from men on certain issues? Do they speak differently? Do attendance rates differ across the genders?
We have a whole range of tools for people running Democracy websites. See them here
Thanks to our EveryPolitician project, we are in a very good position to provide the data that will get those questions answered. EveryPolitician is a project to store and share data on the world’s politicians, in a consistent format.
We’ve got the names of all the politicians. In many cases, we also have their photographs. Adding a field for gender isn’t difficult.
It’s just a matter of filling that field…or rather, those thousands of fields. Ah. Well, that could take a while.
The answer? Crowdsourcing.
We built Gender Balance, a game which displays politicians’ names (and where we have them, faces), and asks you whether they are a man or a woman. Adding in a points system with a leaderboard ensures there’s a competitive element.
Why not give it a go? It’s fun to play, and you’re also helping to fill this crucial gap in the world’s knowledge.
Every time someone plays Gender Balance, their answers are fed back into EveryPolitician. This provides richer information about each politician, and it also contributes to the wider dataset on the balance of genders in the world’s parliaments.
And because there are many players, we can better depend on the data’s accuracy: an error by one player is likely to be cancelled out by all the others.
The data is available for anyone who will find it useful. It’s a source of information for people running parliamentary monitoring websites, and it’s also a great resource for researchers and journalists.
In a recent comparison, we discovered that Gender Balance’s data was more accurate than that held currently by Wikidata.
Thanks to EveryPolitician’s ambition to cover the whole world, we’re also covering a wider number of countries than any project to gather gender data has previously attempted. You might be thinking, ‘what about Wikipedia?’. Well, while all national legislatures are featured on Wikipedia, many lack complete information. And fewer still include information as detailed as their politicians’ gender.
But thanks to Gender Balance, there will soon be a single, reliable source for gender data for every country in the world, and, when you put it all together, for the world as a whole. That data will be available to inform a multitude of sites, including Wikipedia, since it is available for anyone to download from EveryPolitician.
Finally, we’ll be able to answer those questions about women in the world’s legislatures. And that, we reckon, is where the interesting stuff really begins.
Need data on politician’s genders? Find it on EveryPolitician