Before 1945, Austria was the only state to have elected a woman to the role of Speaker of Parliament.
As of 1 June 2016, the number of women Speakers of Parliament reached an all-time high at 49, this according to the report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The 49 women Speakers of Parliament represent 17.7% of the total number of 277 posts of Presiding Officers or Speakers of Parliament worldwide. Globally, there are 193 parliaments, 77 of which are bicameral.
Out of the 49 women Speakers, 17 are Speakers in the upper houses of parliament, while 32 are Speakers in single or lower houses of parliament.
The countries with women Speakers in the upper houses of parliament are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Namibia, Netherlands, Russian Federation, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.
The countries with women Speakers in single or lower houses of parliament are Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, India, Italy, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda and United Arab Emirates.
According to IPU, “The importance of women in these positions of parliamentary leadership cannot be overstated.”
“Women have proven many times over their willingness to usher in gender-sensitive reforms,” the global inter-parliamentary institution added.
The case of Mauritius demonstrates the importance of the role of women Speakers of Parliament. Santi Bai Hanoomanjee, Mauritius first woman Speaker of Parliament, sought the establishment of a parliamentary caucus on gender equality – a body that reviews policies and legislation from a gender perspective.