Only two women are celebrated on the design for the new UK passport, which claims to showcase the country's cultural and creative heritage.
Mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace and architect Elisabeth Scott are depicted in the latest version of the travel document unveiled today.
By contrast, seven men including William Shakespeare, artist John Constable and sculptor Anish Kapoor are represented either in portraits or through their achievements.
The new 34-page passport's theme is "Creative United Kingdom", which official literature said features "some of the best achievements of the last 500 years in Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office, defended the design.
He said: "It wasn't something where we said let's set out to only have two women.
"In trying to celebrate the UK's creativity we tried to get a range of locations and things around the country to celebrate our triumphs over the years, so there we are."
Asked about the omission of female icons such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, he said: "Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book.
"We've got 16 pages, a very finite space. We like to feel we've got a good representative view celebrating some real icons of the UK- Shakespeare, Constable and of course Elisabeth Scott herself."
Scott designed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932.