Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed five women to the 18-member Cabinet on Wednesday in a small but symbolic step toward gender equality in government, which remains male-dominated in many nations.
Globally, the percentage of women in ministerial posts stood at 17 percent in January, up from 16 percent in 2008, according to data compiled by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, an association of the world’s parliaments.
Abe, who has made the empowerment of women a centerpiece of his economic revival strategy, has set a goal of having women in 30 percent of leadership positions in both the private and public sectors by 2020. He had just two female ministers in his previous Cabinet. Now, women make up 28 percent.
The number of countries with at least 30 percent female ministers rose to 36, up from 26 in 2012, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said. Nicaragua had the highest percentage at 57 percent, followed by Sweden, Finland and France.
With some exceptions, female ministers remain well outnumbered by men in most countries.
Britain: Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been accused of packing his government with middle-aged, private-school-educated white men like himself, appointed more women in a Cabinet shake-up in July. Five of the 22 members are now female.
France: About half the 34-member Cabinet is female, fulfilling a 2012 election promise of Socialist President Francois Hollande.
United States: Three of the 16 members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet are women: the secretaries of the interior, commerce and health and human services. Obama has also appointed women to Cabinet-rank positions including the administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration.
China: Three women are members of the Chinese government’s 36-member Cabinet, or State Council — one vice premier and the ministers of health and justice. The country’s apex of political power, the ruling Communist Party’s powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, is all male.