Friday 8 March is International Women’s Day! The date has been celebrated annually ever since the United Nations recognised it in 1975. Whilst in most EU countries it’s an unofficial holiday (though some women mark the day with protests), as of this year International Women’s Day will be celebrated as a public holiday in Berlin, Germany.
The theme of the 2019 International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, and its aims include celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality. Unprecedented progress has been made over the last 44 years in all these areas. However, activists argue that there’s still a long way to go, particularly when it comes to equal representation as decision-makers with political power.
How many women are currently in politics and government? Worryingly, women continue to be under-represented in politics globally at all levels. Despite the fact that the number of female politicians has doubled in the last two decades, only 28.6% of sitting parliamentarians in Europe are women. Despite women making up 50% of the population, they still account for only 36.1% of the members of the European Parliament.
EU Member States leading the way in terms of gender-balanced governments (i.e. with no less than 40% of either gender) include Sweden, Finland, France, Spain and Germany. Particularly noteworthy is Spain, where as of 2018, for the first time since its transition to democracy, there are more women than men in the cabinet. Those lagging behind include Malta, where women make up only 13% of the cabinet, and Cyprus and Hungary, where women account for a mere 7% of government members. Despite many measures being taken to tackle gender imbalances in politics, the rate of progress in most Member States is slow.
So, how can we get more female leadership in politics? According to the latest Eurobarometer survey on gender equality, 70% of Europeans are in favour of legal measures to ensure equality between women and men in politics. Yet some gender biases still endure, as a third of Europeans believe men are more ambitious than women and think that women aren’t as interested as men in decision-making roles in politics.
Belgium sets an interesting example, as equal representation of men and women on electoral lists has been in law since 2002. Meanwhile France has introduced a system of gender parity for departmental elections; voters are no longer offered a single candidate, but a pair of candidates, one female and one male, ensuring gender equality at the departmental level.
Should there be an equal number of men and women in government? How can we get more female leadership in politics? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!