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Women take the bills: Countries that feature women on their banknotes

An analysis of all the world’s banknotes currently in circulation revealed that only 80 banknotes feature depictions of women.

Euro banknotes have featured generic Roman and Gothic architecture to avoid political debates over their design
Euro banknotes have featured generic Roman and Gothic architecture to avoid political debates over their design - Copyright AFP/File INA FASSBENDER
Euro banknotes have featured generic Roman and Gothic architecture to avoid political debates over their design - Copyright AFP/File INA FASSBENDER

Australia’s banknotes are among the world’s most gender-equal, with five of the nine people on the banknotes being women. How do other nations compare with their banknotes?

Scandinavian countries run a close second, with four people on Sweden’s bank notes showing a female figure along with three in Denmark’s and two in Norway’s. Sweden’s placing is matched by Scotland. Following this, the Czech Republic and Colombia each feature two women on their banknotes. Also featuring two women are the Dominican Republic, England and Wales, Canada, Norway Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Argentina, and Israel feature two. This review of currency was conducted by Ubuy South Africa and submitted to Digital Journal for review.

An analysis of all the world’s banknotes currently in circulation revealed that only 80 banknotes feature depictions of women. Out of the major nations examined, Sweden, Australia, and Denmark are the only ones that have achieved gender parity on their banknotes, with women’s faces making up at least 50 percent of the total portraits featured.

The Australian banknotes feature notable women such as social reformers Dame Mary Gilmore and Catherine Helen Spence, businesswoman Mary Reibey, social worker and Australia’s first female parliamentarian Edith Cowan, and vocalist Dame Nellie Melba, all of whom have made significant contributions to Australian society. Given her recent role as Head of State, all notes feature Queen Elizabeth II on the reverse side (the former monarch appears on 19 different banknotes across different countries).

Sweden’s banknotes include notable women such as the author Astrid Lindgren, opera singers Jenny Lind and Birgit Nilsson as well as the actress Greta Garbo. Banknotes in

Denmark features the artist Anna Ancher, the actress Johanne Luise Heiberg and the author Karen Blixen. Norway features the Nobel prize winner, Sigrid Undset and the opera singer Kirsten Falgstad.

With the U.K. there are differences between Scottish, Northern Irish, and English & Welsh banknotes. Here Scotland is leading the way with banknotes featuring four women who have made significant contributions to Scottish society: Nan Shepherd, Mary Somerville, Elsie Inglis, and Mary Slessor. In England and Wales, the most recent change occurred in July 2017 when the 19th-century novelist Jane Austen appeared on the £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin. In the past social reformer Elizabeth Fry and nurse Florence Nightingale have also graced England’s banknotes.

The U.S., North Korea, Russia, China, South Africa and India represent large countries that do not feature any women on their banknotes.

In terms of the counties who feature women on their banknotes, the league is:

Country No. of women featured on banknotes
Australia5
Sweden4
Scotland4
Czech Republic3
Colombia3
Denmark3
Canada2
England2
Dominican Republic2
Mexico2
New Zealand2
Norway2
Philippines2
Argentina2
Israel2
Albania1
Antigua and Barbuda1
Bahamas1
Belize1
Cape Verde1
Cayman Islands1
Chile1
Costa Rica1
Dominica1
Falkland Islands1
Georgia1
Gibraltar1
Grenada1
Guernsey1
Haiti1
Iceland1
Isle of Man1
Jamaica1
Japan1
Jersey1
Kyrgyzstan1
Malawi1
Nigeria1
Peru1
Saint Kitts and Nevis1
Saint Lucia1
Scotland1
Serbia1
South Korea1
St Vincent/Grenadines1
St. Helena1
Switzerland1
Syria1
Tunisia1
Turkey1
Ukraine1
Uruguay1
Venezuela1
Indonesia1
South Korea1

Of the female figures featured on banknotes, the most popular category is writers. Here eight writers are featured including Astrid Lindgren in Sweden, who wrote the popular children’s book “Pippi Longstocking,” and Jane Austen in England and Wales.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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