Which countries are breaking glass ceilings with gender-balanced cabinets?

US President Joe Biden’s promise of a more gender-balanced cabinet follows examples set in countries around the world from Rwanda to Canada to Colombia and New Zealand.

Elected U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed to appoint a diverse cabinet that ‘looks like America’ and promises to bring more women into the top echelons of government.

The incoming Democrat appointed Avril Haines as director of national intelligence and Janet Yellen as secretary of the Department of Treasury – both of whom would be the first women to hold these positions.

Biden’s promise of a more gender – balanced cabinet follows examples spread across different countries.

Here are seven countries that are already taking the lead:


The small East African nation of Rwanda boasts by far the best record for women’s representation in politics.

Nearly two-thirds of the parliamentary seats and 52% of the cabinet seats are held by women. The speaker of the lower house of parliament is a woman, and women ministers hold portfolios that include information and communication technology and trade and industry.

The high participation of women is attributed to the 2003 constitution of Rwanda, which was drawn up after the 1994 genocide, in which women hold no less than 30% of the political seats.

The Rwanda Parliamentary Forum for Women, a women’s party party, has helped expand the number of women’s seats, with a strategy to get veteran legislators elected to public seats and introduce newcomers to reserved seats.

“When women win, we all gain profit as a country. There can be no real progress without equality,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame tweeted at International Women’s Day in March 2020.


Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, has taken steps to increase gender equality in high positions in government since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.

Former diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde was elected the first women’s president in October 2018, and women’s advocate Meaza Ashenafi was appointed its first female chief justice next month.

Ahmed also reduced the cabinet from 34 members to 20, with 45% of the ministerial portfolios, including transport, urban development and construction owned by women.


Canada’s cabinet first became gender equal five years ago when newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a 50/50 quota for men and women.

Asked why he made gender parity a priority, Trudeau said: “Because it’s 2015.”

The quota remains in place with 18 men and 18 women. The senior woman is Chrystia Freeland, Trudeau’s deputy and finance minister.

The 2015 appointments included the first indigenous Secretary of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-RayBould. In 2019, however, she was kicked out of Trudeau’s Liberal Party after a valley over the SNC Lavalin scandal, in which it is alleged that Trudeau put her under pressure to help the large engineering and construction company avoid a corruption trial.


When Colombia’s Conservative president Ivan Duque took office in 2018, he appointed an equal number of men and women in his cabinet as a first for the country, including the first women to hold the influential post of interior minister. .

Women currently hold six ministerial posts from his 16-member cabinet, and Marta Lucia Ramirez is the first female vice president in Colombia.

“It is important that the Colombian woman takes leadership positions,” Duque said on social media.

While Latin America is known for its macho culture, there have been a generation of female heads of state since 2007, from Brazilian Dilma Rousseff to Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina.


In June 2019, the newly elected South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be praised when half of his appointed ministers were women for the first time in the country’s history.

This move is described by the ruling African National Congress party as a good balance between youth, gender, geographical distribution and experience. ‘

While 14 of the 28 ministerial posts were filled by women, 47% of the overall cabinet, including the president and his deputy, were female, and were only ashamed of an equal split.

Despite criticism that top posts such as president and deputy president are still being filled by men, others say it is a step in the right direction in a country with one of the world’s highest slaughter rates.


The small North Atlantic nation of Iceland has a long tradition of electing women as heads of state, dating back to 1980 when Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became president. She served four terms until 1996.

Iceland has had a female leader for the past 50 years.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, the second female leader of Iceland, took over in 2017. Of the ten ministerial posts, four are held by women, including the Ministry of Justice.


The current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a major re-election in October and built the most diverse parliament in New Zealand, with a record number of women and minorities.

There are eight women in the new cabinet with 20 members, or 40%, who do not meet Ardern’s goal of achieving a gender – balanced cabinet.

Yet women make up half of the top ten cabinet positions, including the first female foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, an indigenous Maori woman with a clear face.

Ardern, who became the youngest female head of government in the world at the age of 37 in 2017, said her second-term cabinet represented ‘renewal’ in a country that gave women the first right to vote in 1893.


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