Gender equality in politics still far away
By Mark P. Lagon, President
This year, for the first time in history, women in every country will have the right to vote; Saudi Arabia ended its status as the final holdout by granting women the right to campaign for office and vote in municipal elections later this year. But it is still critical for the United States and others who work to build democracy around the world to focus on advancing women's political participation.
In the last 20 years, the number of female members of parliament (MPs) has doubled to 22 percent, which is still well below the 30 percent target set 20 years ago by the U.N. Only nine women are heads of government. Even when elected, women are seldom appointed to significant legislative committees or awarded the most prestigious ministerial posts. As of January, only 17 percent of MPs held ministerial posts, many of them focused on social sectors such as education and family.
Women are rarely in leadership positions in sectors of society often seen as test grounds for higher political office, including business, the military and the legal profession. In the United States, only 24 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women, and only five women have risen to the rank of 4-star general in the U.S. military. Women account for only 27 percent of federal and state judgeships and only 20 percent of partners in private law firms. Society's concept of "leadership" relies on models that have been chiefly defined by men.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.