Women in Politics

The under-representation of women constitutes a serious democratic deficit, which undermines the legitimacy of the contemporary democratic ideal. Parity democracy and the promotion of women in decision-making positions are therefore important areas of action for EWL. Parity democracy implies the equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions. It goes a step further than quotas as it is based on the idea that women are not a minority: they represent more than half of humanity – a quantitative dimension – and one of its components – a qualitative dimension.

The data: overrepresentation of men

  • The current European Parliament consists of 63% men. That is almost 200 more male than female Members of the European Parliament.
  • In 10 EU Member States - Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Ireland, Latvia, Hungary, Malta, Romania and Slovakia - men make up at least 80% of the national parliament
  • In 2015, there were only 3 women heads of state in the EU - in Croatia, Lithuania and Malta.
  • In 10 EU Member States - Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia - all major political parties are led by men.
  • Across the EU, 85% of mayors are men.

Data source

It’s women’s right to participate in political decision-making:

  • “...shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right to participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government…” Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • “women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women. Women’s equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account…” Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Why is politics not working for women - the 5 Cs

  1. Research shows that women’s underrepresentation in politics boils down to:
  2. Confidence: women - for a variety of highly rational reasons - have more doubts putting themselves up for election
  3. Candidate selection: once women agree to run, it’s often difficult for them to get an electable spot on the election list.
  4. Culture: politics is a men’s world. Sexism is rampant and external threats - women - are often not welcome.
  5. Cash: when women run for election, their campaigns often receive less funding than their male counterparts)
  6. Childcare: across the EU, women spend double the amount of time on childcare compared to men

What can we do to support women in politics?

  • Confidence: Invest in women. Set up ambitious training and mentoring programs.
  • Candidate selection: Establish quota or zipping system in order to ensure gender balanced lists. Head-hunt women candidates.
  • Culture: Establish a zero tolerance to sexism with clear channels for report sexual harassment.
  • Cash: Provide earmarked funding for women candidates until equal representation is reached.
  • Childcare: Change the “long hours” culture in politics. Provide childcare facilities.

What is the EWL - and its members - doing to support women in politics?

  • Monitoring national and EU level developments on women in politics.
  • Campaigning towards parity democracy in the European Parliament.
  • ExCHANGE: Fostering transatlantic innovation to increase the participation of women in political decision-making
  • Czech Republic: Supporting equal participation of women and men in politics and in decision making.
  • Cyprus: Strengthening the capacity of civil society and the women’s movement to effectively advocate for gender parity in decision-making.
  • Ireland: Inspiring, equipping and informing women to run for political office.

EU policy in place to support women in politics

External links

  • Inter-Parliamentary Union’s database on Women in National Parliaments
  • The Quota Project
  • International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics

Latest video

EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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