According to the current world population demographics, the men and women ratio is almost equal in most part of the world. However, a mere look at the parliaments and senates of many countries across the globe gives rather a skewed picture. As per the Parline database featuring figures for women representation in senates for 190 different countries, it can be seen that among them only one country has women representatives in senate (parliament) outnumbering men (Rwanda as of 1st Feb, 2013 data). Only 40 countries are recorded to have more than 25% women representatives in the parliament. Even the developed countries including USA (17 %), UK (22.5%), Russia (13.6%), and Japan (7.9%) have very poor percentage of women participating in politics.
Over the last few decades, though the progress of women in all aspects of life alongside men has been outstanding, the minimal number of women participating in world politics evokes wonder, especially in the context of women having been found to be more active in social issue oriented movements starting from signing of petitions for gun control law, legalizing same sex marriage to boycotting a product. As opposed to women activism in social issues, the unlikelihood of women in joining political campaigns or rallies seems shocking. Surprisingly, the turnout of women voters is higher than that of men in many countries, irrespective of women participating less in politics.
Taking into account all the interesting facts above, it is natural to explore the reasons of women not actively involving in politics.
- Political Activism
Over the years a slew of studies conducted by different agencies in different countries have revealed the fact of men having dominating the arena of politics entirely in terms of voting, rallying or occupying an electoral post before the 70's in the whole world. In recent times, though the scene has improved dramatically with women taking part, more than ever, in voting and political rallies, the number of women running for electoral positions still shows not a very noticeable sign of improvement. It is quite evident that women have less political activism but the reasons for the same cannot be attributed to one single cause.
- Ambition in Politics
A study conducted in 2008 among the young men and women of America shows that men are 35% more likely to run for a political post than women do. However, the same study shows that women are more likely than men to run for a local candidacy but less likely to run for a seat at the parliament or senate. If we try to explain this behavior, we may notice that women by nature are more likely to weigh all the aspects involved in a work before taking the decision of entering it. Local candidacy involves less complexity compared to national level campaigning and electoral process and that may be the reason why women take an interest in it. Interestingly enough, men take decisions based on few key factors out of the many while women, on the other hand, scrutinize all the factors and often take a negative view which eventually lead to their ruling themselves out of a political process.
- Social Encouragement
Although men and women are deemed equal in many countries and societies in all aspects of life but when it comes to joining politics, they receive less encouragement from family, friends and relatives. All over the world men are encouraged to go for a political career in far more cases than women are.
- Family Obligations
Of late, women are increasingly coming out of their traditional garb and exploiting their potential to make their own identity, but amidst all the effort for self-aggrandizement, women are the main bedrocks in any family dynamics. In the bid to fulfill their responsibility as a mother and wife, they compromise with many of their personal desires and ambitions. Though the likelihood of single or divorced women without children entering politics is more compared to even men, the scenario entirely changes when women get married and have kids. Single mothers with kids are found to be least likely to run for an electoral process.
- Current Political Houses
As was the case in last century and continues to be the case in the first decade of this century, all the political parties in the world are dominated by men. As these political houses were dominated by men for so long, the policies, operations and recruitment are still male oriented supporting and nurturing male candidates in a more streamlined manner than it can afford for female candidates. This discrepancy acts as a huge barrier for women to enter politics. In recent times, a conscious effort is seen among all the parties to increase women participation and candidacy but the result is yet to be seen.
The conspicuous difference in number of men to women senators in US and in many other countries may project a grim picture of gender inequality and casts a shadow of doubt upon the political system dynamics. Fortunately, the number of women participating in senate and parliament is escalating in US and in many other countries, a good sign of improvement that may prove encouraging for more women to enter politics. The key to increase the participation in politics among women is to target young women and try to spark political aspirations among them early in their life. If that spark comes from the new age women senators through inspirational leadership or exemplary policy making then surely women participation will spike up in politics in near future.
- Gender and Political Participation, The Electoral commission, Research Report, April 2004.
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electoral_commission_pdf_file/0019/16129/Final_report_270404_12488-9470__E__N__S__W__.pdf ( 2nd April,2013)
- AuroraDawn, The Gender Gap: Percentage of Women in Government Worldwide. We're Number One, Right? Not So Much, ,http://monthlyreview.org/2008/07/01/the-scientific-case-for-modern-anthropogenic-global-warming (2nd April, 2013)
- Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox, Why Are Women Still Not Running for Public Office? Issues in Government Studies, Number 16, May 2008
- Parline Database, Women in national parliaments,
http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm (2nd April, 2013)