Global Peace Index

Today’s news that Senator Olympia Snowe, the perennially moderate Republican from Maine, would not be seeking re-election has many politicos and pundits wondering whether the GOP can hold that seat.

As one of 17 seats held by women senators in the 111th U.S. Congress, Snowe’s gives the American legislature a 16.8% female representation. On the global stage, that’s a rankings tie with Turkmenistan and far behind such progressive juggernauts as Rwanda (57%), Andorra (50%), and Cuba (45%), ranked 1, 2, and 3 respectively.

This got me thinking about the impact of female representation in government upon various characteristics of a society, particularly with regard to a country’s violent or peaceful tendencies. There’s an interesting dataset called the Global Peace Index (GPI), a product of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The IEP uses the Global Peace Index to score and rank countries based on their national and religious “peacefulness,” using 23 different indicators from a nation’s defense spending to the percentage of prison population.

What you find, if you compare a country’s female representation in government to its GPI score, is a downward trend. And that’s a good thing—the lower the GPI score, the more peaceful a nation is. (If you’re a stats fan, that’s a Pearson correlation of R = -.301; bonus points if you know who Pearson is).

Chart of correlation between women's representation and GPI

So while we can’t speak to the causation between peace and balanced representation (whether the chicken or egg comes first), there is a “statistically significant” relationship between female representation in government and peace.

What do you think? Does equal gender representation lead to peace or are peaceful countries more likely to see equal representation? Leave your comments below.