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Women In Government In The Modern Essay

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Women in government in the modern era are under-represented in most countries worldwide, in contrast to men. However, women are increasingly being politically elected to be heads of state and government. More than 20 countries currently have a woman holding office as the head of a national government, and the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments is nearly 20%. A number of countries are exploring measures that may increase women's participation in government at all levels, from the local to the national. Contents

1 Importance
2 Challenges faced by women
2.1 Challenges within political parties
3 Women's suffrage
4 Mirror representation
4.1 Social and cultural barriers to mirror representation
5 National representation
5.1 Women in national parliaments
6 Policies to increase women’s participation
6.1 Education
6.2 Quotas
6.3 Legislation
6.4 Financing
6.5 Research/data improvements
6.6 Grassroots women’s empowerment movements
7 Case studies
7.1 Brazil
7.2 Finland
7.3 Germany
7.4 India
7.5 Japan
7.6 Romania
7.7 Rwanda
7.8 Spain
7.9 United States
8 Women in government office
8.1 Historic firsts for women in government
8.2 Current women leaders of national governments
8.3 Women as cabinet ministers
8.3.1 Ministers of foreign affairs
8.3.2 Ministers of defense and national security
8.3.3 Ministers of finance or revenue
9 Comparing women's integration into branches of government 9.1 Executive branch
9.2 Legislative branch
9.3 Local representation
9.3.1 Indian panchayats
10 See also
11 References
12 Further reading
13 External links
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Increasing women's representation in the government can empower women.[1] Increasing women’s representation in government is necessary to achieve gender parity.[2] This notion of women's empowerment is rooted in the human capabilities approach, in which individuals are empowered to choose the functioning that they deem valuable.[3] Women, as the conventional primary caretakers of children, often have a more prominent role than men in advocating for children, resulting in a “double dividend” in terms of the benefits of women’s representation.[1] Female representatives not only advance women's rights, but also advance the rights of children. In national legislatures, there is a notable trend of women advancing gender and family-friendly legislation. This advocacy has been seen in countries ranging from France, Sweden and the Netherlands, to South Africa, Rwanda, and Egypt. Furthermore, a number of studies from both industrialized and developed countries indicate that women in local government tend to advance social issues.[1] In India, for instance, greater women’s representation has corresponded with a more equitable distribution of community resources, including more gender-sensitive spending on programs related to health, nutrition, and education.[citation needed] In 1954, the United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women went into force, enshrining women's equal rights to vote, hold office, and access public services as provided for male citizens within national laws. Challenges faced by women

Women face numerous obstacles in achieving representation in governance.[1] Their participation has been limited by the assumption that women’s proper sphere is the “private” sphere. Whereas the “public” domain is one of political authority and contestation, the “private” realm is associated with the family and the home.[3] By relegating women to the private sphere, their ability to enter the political arena is curtailed. Gender inequality within families, inequitable division of labor within households, and cultural attitudes about gender roles further subjugate women and serve to limit their representation in public life.[1] Societies that are highly patriarchal often have local power structures that make it difficult for women to combat.[4] Thus, their interests are often not represented. Even once elected, women tend to hold lesser valued cabinet ministries or similar positions.[3] These are described as “soft industries” and include health, education, and welfare. Rarely do women hold executive decision-making authority in more powerful domains or those that are associated with traditional notions of masculinity (such as finance and the military). Typically, the more powerful the institution, the less likely it is that women’s interests will be represented. Additionally, in more autocratic nations, women are less likely to have their interests represented.[4] Many women attain political standing due to kinship ties, as they have male family members who are involved in politics.[3] These women tend to be from higher income, higher status families and thus may not be as focused on the issues faced by lower income families. Additionally, women face challenges in that their private lives seem to be focused on more than their political careers. For instance, fashion choices are often picked apart by the media, and in this women rarely win, either they show too much skin or too little, they either look too feminine or too masculine. Sylvia Bashevkin also notes that their romantic lives are a subject of much interest to the general population, perhaps more so than their stances on different issues.[5] She points out that those who “appear to be sexually active outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage run into particular difficulties, since they tend to be portrayed as vexatious vixens”[6] who are more interested in their romantic lives than in their public responsibilities.[5] If they are married and have children, then it becomes a question of how do they balance their work life with taking care of their children, something that a male politician would not be asked about. Challenges within political parties

In Canada, there is evidence that female politicians face gender stigma from male members of the political parties to which they belong, which can undermine the ability of women to reach or maintain leadership roles. Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the official opposition of the National Assembly of Quebec, was the subject of a claim by Claude Pinard, a PQ "backbencher", that many Quebecers do not support a female politician: "I believe that one of her serious handicaps is the fact she's a woman [...] I sincerely believe that a good segment of the population won't support her because she's a woman".[7] A 2000 study that analyzed 1993 election results in Canada found that among "similarly situated women and men candidates", women actually had a small vote advantage. The study showed that neither voter turnout nor urban/rural constituencies were factors that help or hurt a female candidate, but "office-holding experience in non-political organizations made a modest contribution to women's electoral advantage".[8] Bruce M. Hicks, an electoral studies researcher at Université de Montréal, states that evidence shows that female candidates begin with a head start in voters' eyes of as much as 10 per cent, and that female candidates are often more favourably associated by voters with issues like health care and education.[7] The electorate's perception that female candidates have more proficiency with traditional women's spheres such as education and health care presents a possibility that gender stereotypes can work in a female candidate's favour, at least among the electorate. In politics, however, Hicks points out that sexism is nothing new: (Marois' issue) does reflect what has been going on for some time now: women in positions of authority have problems in terms of the way they manage authority [...] The problem isn't them, it's the men under them who resent taking direction from strong women. And the backroom dirty dialogue can come into the public eye.[7] Within Quebec itself, Don McPherson pointed out that Pinard himself has enjoyed greater electoral success with Pauline Marois as party leader than under a previous male party leader, when Pinard failed to be elected in his riding. Demographically, Pinard's electoral riding is rural, with "relatively older, less-well educated voters".[9] Women's suffrage

Main article: Women's suffrage
Mirror representation
Women’s participation in contemporary formal politics is low throughout the world.[10] The argument put forth by scholars Jacquetta Newman and Linda White is that women’s participation in the realm of high politics is crucial if the goal is to affect the quality of public policy. As such, the concept of Mirror representation aims to achieve gender parity in public office. In other words, representation of women is linked to their proportion in the population. Mirror representation is premised on the assumption that elected officials of a particular gender would likely support policies that seek to benefit constituents of the same gender. A key critique is that mirror representation assumes that all members of a particular sex operate under the rubric of a shared identity, without taking into consideration other factors such as age, education, culture, or socio-economic status.[11] However, proponents of mirror representation argue that women have a different relationship with government institutions and public policy than that of men, and therefore merit equal representation on this facet alone. This feature is based on the historical reality that women, regardless of background, have largely been excluded from influential legislative and leadership positions. As Sylvia Bashevkin notes, “representative democracy seems impaired, partial, and unjust when women, as a majority of citizens, fail to see themselves reflected in the leadership of their polity.”[12] In fact, the issue of participation of Women in politics is of such importance that the United Nations has identified gender equality in representation (i.e. mirror representation) as a goal in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action.[13] Besides seeking equality, the goal of mirror representation is also to recognize the significance of women’s involvement in politics, which subsequently legitimizes said involvement. Social and cultural barriers to mirror representation

Unlike their male counterparts, female candidates are exposed to several barriers that may impact their desire to run for elected office. These barriers, which hinder mirror representation, include: sex stereotyping, political socialization, lack of preparation for political activity, and balancing work and family. Sex stereotyping. Sex stereotyping assumes that masculine and feminine traits are intertwined with leadership[14] Due to the aggressive and competitive nature of politics, the belief is that participation in elected office requires masculine traits.[15] Hence, the bias leveled against women stems from the incorrect perception that femininity inherently produces weak leadership. Sex stereotyping is far from being a historical narrative. To be sure, the pressure is on women candidates (not men) to enhance their masculine traits in electoral campaigns for the purpose of wooing support from voters who identify with socially constructed gender roles. Political Socialization. The concept of political socialization rests on the concept that, during childhood, women are introduced to socially constructed norms of politics. In other words, sex stereotyping begins at an early age. Therefore, this affects a child’s political socialization. Generally, girls tend to see “politics as a male domain.”[16] Socialization agents can include family, school, higher education, mass media, and religion.[17] Each of these agents plays a pivotal role in either fostering a desire to enter politics, or dissuading one to do so. Newman and White suggest that women who run for political office have been “socialized toward an interest in and life in politics. Many female politicians report being born into political families with weak gender-role norms.”[18] Lack of preparation for political activity. This builds upon the concept of political socialization by determining the degree to which women become socialized to pursue careers that may be compatible with formal politics. Careers in law, business, education, and government appear to be common occupations for those that later decide to enter public office.[18] People feel as if women can not do both things at one. as if being a mother and women of high power.[19] Employment as a lawyer or a perhaps as a university professor is significant due to the potential political connections, known as “social capital,”[15] that these occupations create. The assumption is that women in such occupations would acquire the necessary preparation and connections to pursue political careers. Balancing work and family. The work life balance is invariably more difficult for women as they are generally expected by society to act as the primary caregivers for children, as well as for maintenance of the home. Due to the demands of work-life balance, it is assumed that women would choose to delay political aspirations until their children are older. Research has shown that new female politicians in Canada and the U.S. are older than their male counterparts.[20] Conversely, a woman may choose to remain childless in order to seek political office. Institutional barriers may also pose as a hindrance for balancing a political career and family. For instance, in Canada, Members of Parliament do not contribute to Employment Insurance; therefore, they are not entitled to paternity benefits.[21] Such lack of parental leave would undoubtedly be a reason for women to delay seeking electoral office. Furthermore, mobility plays a crucial role in the work-family dynamic. Elected officials are usually required to commute long distances to and from their respective capital cities, which can thus be a deterrent for women seeking political office. National representation

As of October 25, 2013, the global average of women in national assemblies is 21.5%.[22] Women in national parliaments
Out of 189 countries, listed in descending order by the percentage of women in the lower or single house, the top 10 countries with the greatest representation of women in national parliaments are (figures reflect information as of April 1, 2013):[23] New figures are available for up to February 2014 from International IDEA, Stockholm University and Inter-Parliamentary Union. (2014) at Rank

Lower or Single House
Upper House or Senate






South Africa


The major English-speaking democracies are placed mostly in the top 40% of the ranked countries. New Zealand ranks at position 27 with women comprising 32.2% of its parliament. Australia (24.7% in the lower house, 38.2% in the upper house) and Canada (24.7% lower house, 37.9% upper house) rank at position 46 out of 189 countries. The United Kingdom is ranked at 58 (22.5% lower house, 22.6% upper house), while the United States ranks 78 (17.8% in the lower house, 20.0% in the upper house).[23] It should be noted that not all of these lower and/or upper houses in national parliaments are democratically elected; for example, in Canada members of the upper house (the Senate) are appointed. Policies to increase women’s participation

The United Nations has identified six avenues by which female participation in politics and government may be strengthened. These avenues are: equalization of educational opportunities, quotas for female participation in governing bodies, legislative reform to increase focus on issues concerning women and children, financing gender-responsive budgets to equally take into account the needs of men and women, increasing the presence of sex-disaggregated statistics in national research/data, and furthering the presence and agency of grassroots women’s empowerment movements[1] Education

Women with formal education (at any level) are likelier to delay marriage and subsequent childbirth, be better informed about infant and child nutrition, and ensure childhood immunization. Children of mothers with formal education are better nourished and have higher survival rates.[1] Equalization of educational opportunities for boys and girls may take the form of several initiatives: abolis...

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