At this year’s Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, leaders met to discuss a wide range of economic issues, including women’s empowerment and gender gaps in the labor force.
“We must continue to prioritize women’s economic empowerment and place it at the very heart of the G-20 agenda,” said Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, who addressed the participants. “This is a legacy worth fighting for and a future we can be proud to leave to our children.”
But when discussing gender equality among G-20 member countries, it’s hard to ignore the obvious gender gap in the G-20 itself: The group is made up of 19 countries and the European Union, and only two of the member states are led by women.
That shows us little has changed in the past decade.
Since the 2008 summit in Washington, D.C., no more than four women have represented G-20 member countries at the group’s traditional summit at any given time.
From 2011-2013, appearances from five different female leaders, then-Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, then-Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-Korean President Park Geun-hye, brought the total to four each year.
But in 2014 and 2015, when Kirchner was unable to attend the summit, she sent a male minister in her place, and the number dropped down to three.
And as Kirchner, Gillard, Rousseff and Park transitioned out of power, each was replaced by a man.
For the past three years, the only two women representing G-20 countries at the meeting have been British Prime Minister Theresa May and Merkel. Soon, even they won’t be in attendance.
This summit will be May’s last: She is slated to step down from her role next month, and all of the final candidates to replace her as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party are men.
Merkel, considered by some to be the most powerful woman in the world, has already said she will not run for reelection in 2021, paving the way for the possibility that she, too, could be replaced by a man.
Other female leaders have occasionally attended the summit in guest capacities, but overall, the gathering is dominated by men.
The optics of the unequal gender representation are particularly striking when captured in the traditional “family photo” taken at each gathering. This year’s photo featured only three women: May, Merkel and Christine Lagarde, who attends the summit in her capacity as chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund.
The equivalent “family photo” of world leaders’ partners in attendance this year featured only one man: May’s husband, Philip.