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Women in Parliament

Why are women poorly represented in parliament and other positions of political leadership? How can this be changed? Name some countries that have led in going well beyond the 30 percent mark often regarded as a critical mass among specialists on the subject. Why does the United States rank so low (currently 66th) on such a scale? And why have the United States women made greater breakthroughs to leadership positions in the economic and business sphere as well as in higher education than is true for some of the countries that lead in the political sphere?

Solution Preview

Let's take a closer look at these interesting questions. I also attached two supporting resources, some of which this response is drawn.

RESPONSE:

1. Why women are poorly represented in parliament and other positions of political leadership? How can this be changed?

Proposed reasons include the continued view of women's roles as domestic, supply and demand of women, lack of quotas in some countries, to name a few.

Another theory is the type of electoral system impacts the female representativeness in parliament e.g. proportional representation systems help women because a process of contagion is more likely to occur in these systems than in majoritarian systems. Contagion is a process by which parties adopt policies initiated by other political parties. To study this question, for example, researchers looked for contagion effects in Norway and Canada. Looking for contagion effects in elections prior to the dominant Labour Party adopting quotas, they found that contagion occurred within local districts in Norway. The Norwegian Labour Party increased the number of women in winnable positions in exactly those districts where they faced a serious challenge by the Socialist Left, the first party to adopt quotas in Norway. When they tested for a similar effect in Canada ¬ that is whether the Liberal Party was more likely to nominate women in those districts where the New Democratic Party had nominated women, they found no evidence of such an effect. In other words contagion occurred in the country with a PR electoral system and did not in the country with a majoritarian electoral system.15 (http://archive.idea.int/women/parl/ch3c.htm).

However, gender quotas as a policy clearly have been increased in countries like Rwanda and Norway and are reflected in the critical mass indexes for these countries. In 1977, in Norway for example, only two parties with less than four per cent of the parliamentary seats had quotas. Today, five of the seven parties represented in parliament, with approximately 75 per cent of the seats combined, have officially adopted gender quotas.16 (http://archive.idea.int/women/parl/ch3c.htm). In 2005, in Norway for example, 36.1% were women representatives, at least in part, due to the policy of gender quotas (http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm).

What can be done?

This depends, at least in part, on how people view the problem and the causes of the low representativeness of women in the political sphere. The solution will reflect theses views.

Some point to micro managing the problem. Some argue, for example, that it easier to attempt to increase the electoral map in terms of women ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains why women are poorly represented in parliament and other positions of political leadership and recommends ways to change this trend. Based on statistics, it then identifies several countries that have led in going well beyond the 30 percent mark often regarded as a critical mass among specialists on the subject. It then discusses why the United States ranks so low (currently 66th) on such a scale, but yet the United States women have made greater breakthroughs to leadership positions in the economic and business sphere as well as in higher education than is true for some of the countries that lead in the political sphere. Supplemented with statistics and an informative article on women's political equality.

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