It is seen that even women have been increasing their participation in the workplace and taking part in roles where there were traditionally dominated by males, women’s leadership and their participation in politics are still restricted, whether it is from local or global level. Despite women’s proven ability as leaders, they still do not have an equal participation in democratic governance compared to men.
Statistics show that in 2016 the percentage of women who are parliamentarians accounts for 22.8%, which increased by 11.3% compared to in 1995 globally (UN Women, 2016). However, the percentage of women who are parliamentarians in 38 States across the world make up less than 10% of the all parliamentarians in single or lower houses (UN Women, 2016). In addition to this, there are only 17% of prime ministers in the world are women (The Globalist, 2016). This shows a disproportion between men and women’s participation in politics. So what are the factors that prevent women from participating in politics?
According to UN Women (2016), women face a number of barriers when participating in politics compared to men, such as discriminatory laws and institutions still prevent women from running for the office. To be specific, as politics are traditionally dominated by males, women are more likely to feel hostile or unwelcoming to enter (Worell, 2001). In societies where traditional values are well preserved and remained strong, they may act as obstacles that prevent women from political participation.
Along with unfavourable cultural predilections, women are less likely to have access to education, resources, and contacts needed to be effective leaders (Harvard Business Review, 2016). More importantly, greater family responsibility, deprivation of rights, and lack of political networks decrease their chances of acquire necessary political experience for electoral success (UN Women, 2016).
A number of studies show that higher numbers of women participating in politics, in fact, make countries more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic (USAID, 2016). Furthermore, increasing women’s political participation also help to tackle gender equality, especially women’s issues. Thus, it is seen that promoting women’s political participation has an important role to play in tackling human rights and condition for social justice. So what can be done to increase women’s participation in politics?
It is suggested that there is one effective way to increase women’s participation to the office is through the requirement that the party candidate list must be gender balanced (UN Women, 2016). However, there are several problems with the implementation of this method. First of all, if the requirement that there must be 50% of women in the candidate list, yet women are placed at the bottom of the list, they are less likely to be elected. Moreover, if an open list voting system is used, which allows voters to change candidates’ order in the list, it may work to the disadvantage of female candidates. The reason is because in some countries parties may even force female candidates to write a resignation beforehand and submit it when they get elected, so that the parties can replace them with other male candidates.
There is another way that can help promote women’s political participation, which is through the media. Ace Project (2016) indicates that the media has an important role to play in shaping voters’ interest in the election and involved candidates. In other words, the way in which the media portray female candidates, how they deal with women’s issues, and whether they send an educational message across all voters play a crucial role in determining women’s participation in an election.
Nevertheless, the media has actually been promoting negative stereotypes of women. Additionally, it is reported that female candidates are less likely to be interviewed and receive equal broastcasting time compared to male candidates. As a matter of fact, the Guardian (2016) finds that women are covered in 10% of news stories only, and only 4% of news stories challenge gender stereotypes. Too often it is seen that men talking to men about men are featured in the majority of news media and political programming. Thus, it is seen that when the media portrays politics as a man’s game, it is no surprised that women’s participation in politics is hindered.
In conclusion, it is seen that women’s leadership and political participation across the world are still very modest compared to men’s. Several unfavourable cultural predilections, discriminatory laws, and gender stereotypes portrayed by the media that prevent women’s progress to enter the office. However, changing that is not easy. It goes beyond just putting gender on everyone’s agenda. In order to promote women’s participation in politics, perhaps having role female models to inspire other women, and promoting inclusion by disrupting norms may eventually change the perception that politics are a man’s game.
Ace Project. (2016). Media and Elections. [online] Available at: http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/me/onePage [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
Harvard Business Review. (2016). Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2013/09/women-rising-the-unseen-barriers [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
Sonenshine, T. (2016). U.S. vs the World? Women as Top Political Leaders – The Globalist. [online] The Globalist. Available at: http://www.theglobalist.com/women-on-top-of-the-political-world/ [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
The Guardian. (2016). How the media can promote gender equality. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/oct/26/more-hillary-less-donald-how-the-media-can-promote-gender-equality [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
UN Women UK. (2016). Leadership & Participation | UN Women. [online] Available at: http://unwomenuk.org/un-women/strategic-goal-3/ [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
UN Women. (2016). Facts and figures: Leadership and political participation. [online] Available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
UN Women. (2016). What we do: Leadership and political participation. [online] Available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
USAID. (2016). Strengthening Women’s Rights and Political Participation. [online] Available at: https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment/addressing-gender-programming/strengthening-womens [Accessed 13 Dec. 2016].
Worell, J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Women and Gender. 1st ed. Burlington: Elsevier.