Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

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Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

The numbers of women that have held important political positions in this century have dramatically risen compared to previous centuries. Around the world, several governments have been headed by women including Joyce Banda of Malawi, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Angela Markel, and Yingluck Shinawatra. Although it is evident that an increasing number of female politicians are contesting for various positions of power globally, the truth is that women are extremely underrepresented in politics. According to Kurtzleben (2016), women form the majority of the population of human beings in the entire world. Worldwide, however, this gender occupies only 20% of all seats in parliament. In some parts of the world including Asia and the Middle East, the figures are lower than the average specified by the author. It is therefore evident that women have been underrepresented in politics. It is important to study the causes of female underrepresentation given that women politicians play a vital role in making policies and giving legitimacy to the democratic system of a country. Based on the research carried out, women have been underrepresented in the majority of countries. This phenomenon can be explained by the demand and supply of female candidates being artificially suppressed. As a result, the fewer women have managed to hold elective office over the years.

According to Bangs (2017), when elected, most of the women perform just like their male counterparts and others even surpass them. However, the problem is those females are not running for various elective offices. It then becomes important to examine in detail the major obstacles that hinder women from participating in politics. WEDU (n.d) points out that this is a complex issue that owes its origin to institutional, cultural, social, historical, and economic factors. For instance, the electoral system has commonly been cited as a major cause of disparity between the political representation of men and women. It negatively affects the supply of women candidates. According to Krook (2010), this has been a major problem in the US compared to other patriarchal democracies. Systems such as the winner-takes-all do not exist in these countries. Consequently, it becomes easier for these nations to promote women engagement in politics.Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

Changing political circumstances has constantly been cited as one of the reasons that limit the supply of female aspirants. Most scholars have explained this in relation to party politics and feminist strategies that make most women unable to decide whether or not to get involved with political parties (Krook, 2010). Most women fail to be chosen as candidates in elections because they remain outside political parties. According to WEDU, an organization that concerns itself with the issues of women in Asia, low self-esteem, and lower expectations have prevented more women from engaging in politics. The organization cites the presence of just a few role models and illiteracy as additional factors. This has been particularly the case in countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Cambodia. While focusing on education, the organization notes that the practice to force girls to remain at home to attend to domestic chores has forced many of them to miss education. This lowers their self-esteem and in the end, it becomes difficult for women to raise their voice in government. In most of Asia countries, politics are dominated by males, who more often than not, put barriers against females. Unfortunately, women have not been empowered enough to speak about this issue is the public. The prevailing condition in most Asian countries has created a vicious cycle where most of the needs of women are not attended to due to the few numbers of women engaging in politics. Moreover, this has made many of them to lack confidence in themselves and as a result, it has become extremely difficult for them to contribute to governing of their countries.Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

Statistics have constantly indicated that compared to various Western democracies, the US has far less number of women that engage in politics. In Scandinavia, approximately 40% of the parliamentary seats are held by women. In other countries in Europe, the figure stands at 30%. In the state legislatures in America, 19% of House seats are held by women while in Senate, it is approximately 21% (Richardson, 2017). In the US, several suggestions have been put forward to explain the failure of women to run for various elective seats. Bangs (2017) quotes the Times Editorial Board that claims that traditional family arrangements have negatively affected the career choices of women. The team points out American women have over the years underestimated their abilities. Moreover, they lack confidence in themselves and this affects their chances of succeeding. As a result, many of them do not even consider contesting for any elective post. Without a doubt, this political ambition gap highlighted by the editorial is another sensible explanation for women underrepresentation in politics, especially in the US.

Lawless and Fox (2016) have attempted to uncover the development of gaps between men and women as well as boys and girls in politics. Based on their survey findings, an equal proportion of school boys and girls consider running for political offices. However, the authors found that major differences begin to emerge in college. The numbers of men that consider running for these offices is double that of women. Additionally, women were more likely to point that that they would not run for office whatsoever. Lawless and Fox (2016) attribute this political ambition difference to traditional family arrangements. The researchers found that compared to their male counterparts, college women tend to focus more on prospective parenthood. Moreover, the authors quote studies that have been conducted in several social sciences that indicate more women who move from high school to college tend to doubt their abilities compared to their male peers.  Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

Additionally, Lawless and Fox (2016) identified that the options that college students are exposed to tend to be traditionally gendered. For instance, the political science course seems to be more attractive to men than women.  Additionally, the authors found that in college, many students become exposed to the sexual harassment, alcohol consumption, and date rape, all of which contain gendered realities that may work against women by depressing their autonomy. The result is that different roles and expectations are strengthened by these dynamics. Moreover, they influence the choices made by both women and men. The lack of confidence by women can be explained by these dynamics.

Lawless and Fox (2016), successfully indicate ways in which American institutions carry a gendered nature that works against women. It is clear that when analyzing political parity and reasons that hinder women from running for offices, external forces that influence their decisions must be considered. Despite the claims made by various scholars, the political establishment, the decision to take part in recruitment process among other factors could also be viewed as a rational choice. From the beginning, the failure of women to enter politics is as a result of their vague notion that it would be difficult for them to run for office due to their gender. This view is supported by the recent 2016 election campaign in the US in which the only female candidate for president was exposed to negative sexist bias by the media.  Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

For one to change the current trend in which women are underrepresented, it is important to first consider the available facts. According to Bangs (20170, one of the causes of this trend is the nature of political establishment and the process of involved in recruitment. In most countries, including the US, the selection of candidate is influenced by the prevailing political establishment, which consists of party leader, donors, and other powerful figures such as elected officials and various advocacy groups. They actively influence candidate recruitment. In most cases, a close relationship exists between the candidates that are favored and these individuals. They are required to have access to money, be in a position to further the interests of the party, and dedicate their personal resources to their campaigns. This becomes very problematic to women given that one of the major factor affecting women in the US is gender gap that limits the personal resources that they can have. This is especially the case for color women. It is evident that the argument to increase the number of women candidates should not merely focus on increasing the confidence of women or making them more ambitious for various elective posts. Instead, focus should be on proving equal opportunities and encouragement as men. In the US, political actors and gatekeepers provide less encouragement to women to run for elective posts even if they have similar political interest, social, and economic status as men. Moreover, family members, friend, and coworkers among other non-political actors tend to discourage women from running for office.

Another factor that contributes to the underrepresentation of women is difficulties in fundraising. According to Bangs (2017) men raise more money compared to women as candidates through individual donors and contribution made during the campaigns. Bangs points out that while this is the case, the partied distribute nearly the same amount of money to each gender. Moreover, the high cost associated with political career and disparities in wealth limit the number of female candidates, which in turn results in women underrepresentation. In some areas, the notion that holding office cannot be a full-time job prevails. This works against women that lack the required support systems or who are not wealthy.Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

 

According to an article written by the New York Times editorial board, sexism that another barrier that limits the supply of women candidates. This makes them doubt their qualification to contest for an office. As a result, only a few of them make the choice to run. Although it has been established that roles and responsibilities in a family do not negatively impact the decisions, made by the potential candidates to vie for a political position, there is strong perception that family is the most influencing factor for women. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election in the US for instance, Chelsea Clinton announced that she was pregnant and this led to speculation that the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton would be affected negatively (Fang, 14). On the other hand, Joe Biden who was equally a potential 2016 presidential candidate was not subjected to such questions despite having several grandchildren.  What is clear is that female candidates tend to be subjected to numerous family issue questions, a trend that reinforces the notion that family concerns influence the decision to run.

Although it is true that women have been politically underrepresented around the world, it is also a fact that in some countries, the number of women in politics exceeds that of men. In Sweden and Rwanda, the number of women in the national assembly nearly equals that of men  (Krook, 2010). On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan do not have even a single female legislature. The author also points out that in some countries, more women than men are recruited by political parties. Consequently, it becomes necessary for one to exercise caution when explaining women underrepresentation using the demand versus supply of female candidates. Based on the findings obtained, the nature of political context influences the situation.Essay on Underrepresentation of Women in Politics

In conclusion, the disparity between the political representation of women and men is as a result of several factors. First, more women compared to men tend to regard the electoral systems as unfair towards female candidates. Moreover, the majority of women view themselves as unqualified to vie for a political office due to lack of confidence in them. It is also more difficult for women to raise money for campaigns through fundraising, a factor that limits the number of female candidates running for office. Furthermore, it was found that women are rarely encouraged to contest in an election. It is evident that women face numerous hurdles and challenges that hinder them from participating in democracies. Of important is that the responsibility to tackle the underrepresentation problem should become the responsibility of everyone. Countries across the world should implement gender quotas. Moreover, various inequalities that continue to emerge such as recruitment of candidates should be fully addressed. Such efforts are necessary to sustain a trend whereby more women participate in politics, resulting in fair representation.

 

 

References

Bangs, M. (2017). Women’s Underrepresentation in Politics: No, It’s Not Just an Ambition Gap. Retrieved from https://tcf.org/content/commentary/womens-underrepresentation-politics-no-not-just-ambition-gap/

Richardson, H. (2017). Why So Few Women in State Politics? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/25/opinion/why-so-few-women-in-state-politics.html

Fang, M. (2014, July 22). Women are underrepresented in politics, but it’s not for the reason you think. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/22/women-in-politics_n_5607061.html

Krook, M. L. (2010). Why are fewer women than men elected? Gender and the dynamics of candidate selection. Political Studies Review, 8(2), 155-168.

Kurtzleben, D. (2016, June 11). Almost 1 in 5 Congress Members Are Women. Here’s How Other Jobs Compare. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2016/06/11/481424890/even-with-a-female-presumptive-nominee-women-are-underrepresented-in-politics

Lawless, J. L., & Fox, R. L. (2016, July 28). Not a ‘Year of the Woman’…and 2036 Doesn’t Look So Good Either. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/not-a-year-of-the-woman-and-2036-doesnt-look-so-good-either/

WEDU. (n.d.). What prevents women from participating in politics? Retrieved from http://www.weduglobal.org/what-prevents-women-from-participating-in-politics/