Home » Methodology 2019/20


How we’ve collected the data, what each metric measures, and some data health warnings

The main Women Leaders Index records the proportion of women employed in the top five grades of the civil service in each of the G20 countries. It also tracks the proportion over previous years, running back to 2013.

The top five grades comprise roughly the top 1% of public officials, defined as non-elected senior executives across federal or national governments. The Index uses the most comparable and up-to-date data available at the time that the research was carried out, between October and November 2019.  

Note that in the case of Italy and Germany, data on the top five grades is not available: here we use data on the top two grades: level 1 and level 2 administrators, as defined by the European Institute for Gender Equality. So these two countries’ data is not directly comparable to that for other G20 countries – though it does show the two countries’ progress over time on that metric.

Further, within this dataset the data for Argentina and Russia refers to 2016, as more up-to-date data was unavailable at the time that the research was carried out. Similarly, data for Saudi Arabia refers to 2017.

For comparison, we also collate the latest data on other metrics in each G20 country, including: the proportions of women working across the entire public service; women elected to national political office, largely in legislative chambers; women in ministerial positions; and female directors on publicly-listed private sector company boards.

In addition to profiling those countries that are members of the G20, our research also examines the percentage of women in the top two tiers of the civil service in all EU states. As with the Italy and Germany data in the G20 ranking, this broadly equates to departmental leaders and senior directors. 

This year, we have also included data on the OECD nations. However, some of this country data is not directly comparable even within this dataset. New Zealand, for example, releases gender data for the senior civil service based on the top three levels, while others publish data on the top two grades or (as with the G20) the wider management cadre.

Definitions of senior leaders are based as far as possible on data used in previous years, in order to provide optimal comparisons over time. Data on women in the senior civil service and women across the total public sector is gathered directly from individual central government agencies, with the exception of China, where the statistics for public sector leaders are calculated using a proprietary GGF database of senior officials to provide estimates from 2015.

Data on women in national elected positions is sourced from UN and Inter-Parliamentary Union statistics, which are publicly available. Data on women in Cabinet positions is collected via third-party sources such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, or statistics published by individual governments themselves. Data on women on private sector boards is collated from third-party sources such as MSCI, Catalyst, and a publication by Harvard University via Institutional Shareholder Services. EU data for Level 1 and 2 administrators is provided by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

The first two Women Leaders Index reports were produced by the publishing house Dods under the leadership of staff who now work for Global Government Forum. The 2015-16 and 2016-17 Indexes were produced by Global Government Forum, and can be found via the ‘Previous‘ tab.