Updated: Jul 12
A take on women in politics
By: Kiara Pellicane-Hart
“When women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society...Women are the world’s most underused resource” Hillary Clinton.
Women having equal participation as men in legislatures is a central part of a sustainable democracy. Having an uneven distribution of male and female perspectives and leadership means that the needs of citizens are more likely to be overlooked, especially when the legislators are ignorant or under-educated about certain issues or topics. In the last 20 years, there was a 12% increase in female legislators across the globe, which is certainly an improvement. The number of female parliamentary speakers has doubled over the past 25 years, with women as parliamentary speakers in all regions except for the Pacific.
Despite these improvements, it is rare for leadership positions to be held by women and there is a distinct difference in the progress national parliaments have made to improve gender balance across the world. At the start of 2020, women only held a quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide and were leading 20 out of 193 nations. Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia, and the United Arab Emirates are the only parliaments where women share an equal majority or more in the world. A benchmark of 30% female representation globally was described as the minimum percentage of female legislators that will enable a significant impact to occur in parliaments. At the moment, global female representation is below that benchmark. The imbalance in parliamentary seats is not only a strong reminder of gender inequality but also of the power dynamics still present in society, indicating that it is still very much patriarchal. Without female representation, at least half of the population at any given time, democracy can function as effectively when such a large portion of its participants are underrepresented at the best of times and mostly ignored for the rest of the time.
Democratic political institutions must be responsive to all citizens, which can not happen if they are not inclusive to the entire range of groups within the population. If women do not hold political offices, especially in national parliaments, then there is a much larger imbalance in the legislation passed and the participation of the democratic system’s citizens. Democratic systems benefit from having diverse backgrounds and experiences represented by its legislature and political institutions. The interests and priorities of individuals are shaped by their respective social, economic, and cultural environments. Having female legislators from different backgrounds introduces more issues and proposed solutions that may have been previously overlooked or unimaginable. Even though there is a limited number of women that hold legislative positions, and economic and political dynamics make it more difficult, women place a greater priority on women’s rights.
Utilizing the full array of skills, potential, and knowledge within a population will only cause improvements in the gender imbalances present and in the formation of policies. Women have made great strides in government, but there is always room for another woman to bring her expertise and knowledge to shape legislation that will make society more equitable.
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