Increase in Women in Parliament, Glass Ceiling Remains
A survey by Independent on Sunday revealed that women are winning a growing number of seats in parliaments throughout the world, although they still hold far fewer legislative and key cabinet positions than men.
Anne-Marie Goetz, a governance specialist at UN Women, clarified, "In most countries there has been stubborn resistance to fair competition by women for prominent positions in public decision-making. The only known means to overcome that has been the use of quotas." Twenty-one of the 25 countries in which women make up over 30 percent of the parliament have used a positive quota system of inclusion. Although Goetz noted that quotas are controversial, she stated that the resulting increases in women's parliamentary presence have "become self-sustaining."
Yifat Susskind, executive director of Madre, an international human and women's rights group, pointed out that women parliamentarians expand the scope of issues debated. For example, in Afghanistan, women members of parliament helped to bring the potential closure of women's shelters to international attention. Women's influence is also needed in peace talks, Goetz noted, where they "contribute to the sustainability of the peace."
In both Iceland and South Africa, women control almost the same number of parliamentary seats as men. In the Rwandan parliament, women are the majority, holding 56 percent of Rwanda's lower house and 35 percent in the upper house. By contrast, the United States ranks 72 of 188 nations for gender parity in government. In the United Kingdom, tied with Uzbekistan for 53rd, less than one in four members are women.
Media Resources: The Independent 3/6/11; Interparliamentary Union Website 3/8/11