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Kamala Harris made history in 2021 when she was sworn in as the 49th US vice-president, becoming the first woman, and the first African American, to occupy the role. However, female leadership in world power is still a relatively modern phenomenon. Among Fortune 500 companies, for example, women are grossly under-represented in leadership positions.

New research from William Russell, an international insurance provider, reveals the countries that have the highest percentage of female representation across business and government by analysing the number of women in leadership positions across a variety of industries and establishments; from politicians to CEOs and female-run companies, to women in top managerial positions.

It finds that the locations with the highest concentration of female leaders are Austria, the UK, Argentina, Germany, France, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and Iceland, in that order.

Austria has the highest number of female leaders in the world, thanks to its appointment of three female heads of state and government, while 34.6% the country’s board members (on listed companies) are women. It also has 40.4% of women in parliament seats in the lower or single house, with a higher percentage in upper chamber seats, with 41% of the Federal Council being women.

In second place is the UK, which has had three female prime ministers, a 37.8% share of women on business boards, and 34.5% of the MPs in the House of Commons being women.

In third place is Argentina, which has one of the highest shares of female membership in its lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, at 44.8%. Argentina has also had two female presidents. 

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Beyond the obvious ethics of gender parity in leadership, there is the economic argument. Having more women in leadership roles creates better financial results, according to Dr Amelia Santos-Paulino, chief of the UN Conference on Trade and Investment’s research section.

“Multinationals can help advance equality,” she said. “A more gender-balanced board improves corporate governance and innovation of business perspectives. It also creates a better mix of talents and skills, and more informed decision-making and understanding of consumer preference.”