Celebrating Women in Government

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women in government female black and white  standing at podium in front of government building

Full active participation of women in legislatures that hold seats equal to men is not just a goal in itself but is central to building and sustaining democracies. The equal presence of women, their leadership and their perspective in governments is essential to ensure greater responsiveness to all citizens’ needs.

Our world is slowly recognizing this need.

Over the last 20 years, the proportion across the globe increased from 13% in 2000 to 2% per cent in 2020. Africa has increased the number of women legislators from 11 to 24 per cent. The Arab states, too, have witnessed a significant increase, from 3% to 17%. The share of women parliamentary speakers has also doubled over the past 25 years.

Women are now serving as parliamentary speakers across all regions of the world with the exception of the Pacific. The Pacific has the lowest rate of women in parliament. Three countries – Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Micronesia – have no female politicians.

Dr. Baker’s theme of her research has been about the effects of increasing the number of women in parliament, which can mean individual female politicians feel less pressure to “represent all women”.

Dr. Baker states: “If you focus on getting more women elected then they can share that burden and also represent the other things that are important to them as well.”

It is also true that progress towards achieving gender balance in national parliaments across the globe is slow and uneven. By the dawn of 2020, women were leading just 20 of 193 nations and occupying a quarter of parliamentary seats globally. Women share an equal majority or more in only four parliaments around the world – Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia and the United Arab Emirates.

Despite these gains, women still rarely hold leadership roles.

Global female representation is still below 30% – the benchmark identified as the crucial level of representation to achieve a “critical mass” of female legislators to enable a significant impact, rather than a symbolic few.

The fact that women still occupy only a 25% of parliamentary seats across the world is a stark reminder of the pervasive and persisting nature of gender inequality. It is also indicative of the power dynamics within societies.

1. Why it matters if there are more female legislators and political leaders?
2. Why do we need more women involved in all aspects of the political process?

Put simply, it matters because women’s representation is necessary to ensure that democracy functions as effectively as possible. Even when women appear to be in limited numbers within the legislature, economic and political dynamics make the task more difficult for women. Some findings suggest that women still legislate differently by placing a greater priority on women’s and children’s rights; as well as climate change.

Women as a minority in government is not acceptable as they hold 50% of the world’s population.

Since 1995, the world has made great strides towards achieving gender equality. For example, over the last 10 years, 131 countries have passed 274 legal reforms in support of gender equality. These include laws towards eliminating violence against women, childcare and universal healthcare.

Research indicates that these achievements have coincided with an increasing number of female legislators around the world.

One of the reasons for this is because women legislate differently compared to men. Women often bring different experiences, attitudes and resources that greatly affect legislation, party agendas, and constituency service. Harvard Business Review found that the type of women who tend to get elected are often “better” politicians because of the way they have to outperform men to be elected into office, showing better leadership skills.

Women may still face a number of challenges that affect their ability to participate in political life and become political leaders.

Several countries are exploring measures that may increase women’s participation in government at all levels, from the local to the national and international. However, more and more women are pursuing leadership positions in the present day. Women being increasingly represented in legislatures and having more political power in general creates various different effects.

The next century will be an interesting time, as women get closer to complete global gender equality arriving finally into a world of human beings. Today, in honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate every milestone achieved so far.

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