By using the website you agree to our use of cookies as described in our cookie policy. OK Learn more

Women of Note

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political contributions of women across the globe.

This year’s theme #BeBoldForChange encourages everyone - male, female and non-binary - to drive positive change and create a more gender inclusive world.

In honour of this, has decided to look into how many bold women are paid homage to on bank notes with our own study.

Throughout history, the accomplishments of the world’s most celebrated people are often made famous on the currency of their home nations. There is an abundance of women throughout history and today who have stepped forward, been bold and emerged as leaders, pioneers and disruptors of society who are deserving in recognition and celebration.

Staggeringly, we found that currently, of the 634 faces that appear on bank notes around the world, only 9.4% (60) are female – pretty underwhelming given that there are 576 male faces used in 139 different countries.

Positive change may be a foot

The US, one of the biggest countries both geographically and economically, currently has no females featured on their banknotes. However, there are proposals for Harriet Tubman to appear on the new $20 note and further heroes of the suffragette movement to be included on the back of the $10 bill.

Plans similar to the Treasury Department’s commitment to featuring Tubman on notes by 2020 are occurring in a number of countries to resolve this inequality, with the United Kingdom taking steps to ensure that their women are represented.

For example, back in 2013, it was revealed that prison reformer Elizabeth Fry - the only woman other than the Queen to feature on sterling currency - was to be replaced on the £5 note by Winston Churchill.

A successful media campaign fronted by prominent journalist and activist Caroline Criado-Perez followed, and this led to the confirmation that Jane Austen would be the new face of the £10 note from autumn 2017.

In addition to this, Bill Morneau, Canadian Finance Minister recently announced that Viola Desmond, a black civil rights leader who campaigned against segregation and racism in 1940s Canada, will be the first Canadian woman to feature on a banknote. Viola Desmond will appear on the Canadian $10 bill due to go into circulation in 2018.

While it’s fair to say that parts of the world have some catching up to do when it comes to this, not many nations are as forward-thinking as Sweden or Australia, for example, where faces on bank notes are almost equally represented.

Golden age for “notable” women

While positive steps are being made to include women on notes, the golden age for “notable” women remains the 1990s with 22 women included on notes in this decade compared to just 13 for the current decade.

1994 and 1995 were particularly positive years for the introduction of women on notes, with almost half (ten) of the banknotes featuring women for that decade coming into circulation in these years.

We've illustrated all of this perfectly...

Despite steps to make positive changes, women are still underrepresented when it comes to appearing on banknotes. If we were to lay out all of the bank notes from around the world that feature people, and then remove those that show only men, we're left with a very sparse picture - as you can see from the illustration above.

Current Women of Note


To embed Women of Note on your site, simply copy and paste the following: