UN reports slow women’s political parity; launches latest ‘Women in Politics’ map
15 March 2017 – Women’s voices are still missing from the executive branches of governments and parliaments worldwide, slowing achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations agency tasked with supporting gender equality today said at the launch of a visual representation of women’s political empowerment.
The number of women Heads of State or Heads of Government fell from 19 to 17 since 2015, and progress in the number of women in parliament continues to be slow, according to the Women in Politics Map launched today by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women.
“What is democracy? Is it people for the people, or men for the people,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, told journalists in New York. She spoke alongside Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the IPU.
The Union, established in 1889, is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. The IPU supports the efforts of and works in close cooperation with the UN on relevant objectives.
IPU data shows that the global average of women in national parliaments increased just slightly from 22.6 per cent in 2015 to 23.3 per cent in 2016. The number of female Speakers of the House, however, is up to the highest so far, with 53 out of 273 posts.
“Political campaigns are expensive,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka identifying some of the challenges facing women who run for office. “Political parties are male dominated. When there isn’t a specific measure in place, women fall off the ground. Men tend to choose those who are made in their own image.”
She noted that some women also experience pushback from men, including physical violence, taunting and bullying; while the media sometimes focuses too much on women’s physical attributes rather than their experiences and political platforms.
“In 2016, we saw confirmation of a trend we had been seeing, when it comes to representation of women in parliament, there is progress but the progress is excruciatingly slow. At this rate, it will take 50 years to reach 50-50 parity,” Mr. Chungong told the press. “This is a warning signal; we have to do something about this.”
Regional snapshot of women’s political power
Regionally, women’s representation in the Americas made the most significant gains, according to a press release from UN Women.
Women’s participation in parliaments rose to 25 per cent from 22.4 per cent in 2015, even as the region saw a drop in Heads of State with the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina leaving office.
Female ministers in Africa saw a decline in numbers, after years of steady growth. About 19.7 per cent of the region’s ministerial posts are held by women.
In Asia, women hold 11 per cent of ministerial posts, led by Indonesia whose Government is comprised of 25.7 per cent women.
Among the Arab States, 9.7 per cent of senior executive posts are held by women, led by Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, at 23.1 per cent and 26.7 per cent, respectively.
In Europe, the total percentage stood at 22.5 per cent. A surprise came from the Nordic countries which have traditionally led the global stage in politics, but whose number of female ministers fell by more than six per cent to 43.5 per cent.
Regional snapshot of women’s political power
Today’s report was launched on the sidelines of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women, known as the largest inter-governmental forum on women's rights and gender equality. The theme this year is on women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work.
A common theme throughout the Commission has been the gender pay gap. Women on average are paid 77 cents for every one dollar earned by a man.
To highlight the 23 per cent disparity, the Commission is expected today to pause at 4:10pm, when there is 23 per cent of the work-day left. Symbolically, coffee and tea will be served, as a sign of relaxation and to mark the end of the work day in coffee cups with the following slogan on their sleeves: “EQUAL PAY NOW #CSW61.”
Yesterday, the UN launched the Equal Pay Platform of Champions with support from actress Patricia Arquette and athlete Abby Wambach, among others.
UN Women has also launched the #StopTheRobbery campaign, which blacks out 23 per cent of characters from twitter messages in support of income equality.