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The Lack of Womxn in Politics

Author: Trisha Beher, Redmond High School ‘21. Edited by Iliyan Ajani.

The representation of womxn in politics is dangerously minimal. Womxn in every socio-economic position find themselves marginalized, and quite frankly, subjugated from the political sphere. The lack of gender equality in political participation is a terrifying prospect, especially considering that “women are estimated to make up 49.6% of the global population, but only have 23.6% of parliamentary positions globally,” according to the World Federation of United Nations Associations. Even despite their proven abilities to lead and advocate for change, womxn are restricted in leadership positions in the office, the civil service, the private sector, and academia.

With a more than 50 percent gender gap in the political sphere (United Nations Developmental Program), a vicious cycle of discrimination against womxn is able to persist. With people constantly questioning the credibility of womxn, it is even harder for them to make a career in politics. The stereotypes ingrained in peoples’ minds about female candidates are absolutely poisonous. The UN General Assembly has stated that issues such as “discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care, and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women'' all propagate the lack of representation of womxn in politics. According to the World Economic Forum, “global gender imbalances are currently greater in politics than they are in health, education, and employment.” This is worrisome, as this allows a feedback loop to occur where the lack of representation of womxn in politics results in gender-discriminatory laws and practices that further prevent the participation of womxn in politics.

There has been extensive research done on womxn’s perceptions of their ability to lead, and the results are appalling. According to Politico, when womxn were polled about “feeder careers'' such as business, law, education, and politics, they found that “women were almost equally likely to have had relevant political experience, including extensive policy research and public speaking, but when asked if they thought they were qualified to run for office, only 57 percent of those women said they thought they were qualified or very qualified, compared to 73 percent of men.” This clearly demonstrates how the misconceptions and stereotypes of womxn in politics have spread their toxicity into even the minds of capable and intelligent womxn.

In many less economically developed countries, these problems are further amplified by prevalent sexism and issues like gender disparity in literacy, youth birth rates, and abuse. According to We Du Global (a platform to encourage leadership amongst women in Asia), in developing countries, such as Bhutan, “household responsibilities, low self-esteem, illiteracy, few role models, and lower expectations were found as the key reasons that stops women from participating in politics.” The prominent gender gap in politics prevents representation from existing in laws that are vital to preserving womxn’s rights. When girls are forced to stay home and do domestic work while missing out on their education, they are unable to develop a level of self-esteem pertinent enough to push them into politics. The overarching patriarchy contributes to this as well. It is in developing countries where womxn are the most needed in politics. Without womxn in the political sphere, the aforementioned issues are less likely to be brought to light and the less likely it is for womxn to get the chance to voice their concerns in government.

It is the duty of every country and every sector to bring light to this issue, and to work fervently to combat it. The key is to sensitize young females to the realm of politics, introduce them to speaking in the public sphere, and educate them through comprehensive programs across the world. Although Rwanda and some Scandinavian countries are making strides to increase women's political involvement through mandated quotas for womxn to remove institutional barriers for female political participation, more action must be taken (Wu De Global).

Immediate measures should be taken to empower womxn in politics and there should be a greater focus on educating young womxn in order to address the inherent gender inequality that has persisted for years. As We Du Global states, “if women are entitled the same right to education as men, they will have higher self-esteem and we can trust that they will gain their voice back– and make themselves heard by their people, and even the world.” For the entirety of the female population, there must be greater equality in education, empowerment, and opportunities in politics in order to combat worldwide sexism and initiate widespread change and reform.

Graphic made by Sarah Luan.