Posted on September 12, 2013 · Posted in Frank Friday, P-cubed News

I hope many of you had a chance to vote in the primaries for the New York mayoral candidate this week. Elections have been on my mind lately, especially the issue of who gets to represent our collective hopes and desires. Ninety three years after the passage of the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote, women’s political leadership in the United States still lags behind the Nordic countries and several countries in Africa. The 2012 Global Gender Gap report ranks the U.S. 55th in equality in leadership in the political arena and overall 22nd out of the 135 countries in the study. While the U.S. has closed 74% of the overall gender gap in the dimensions of health, education, economic participation, the US performs below the global average on political empowerment with women representing only 18.3% in Congress and 22% of the current New York State legislature.

Several countries that show a closing of the gender gap in political participation have benefited from a top-down approach to promoting women’s leadership by instituting quotas. In several Nordic countries, voluntary gender quotas were introduced by political parties in the 1970s resulting in high levels of female political representation. Sweden currently has about 45% of women in parliament, while Denmark has since abandoned the quota policy as near parity has been achieved. In India, a constitutional amendment in 1993 called for one-third of village council leadership positions in the country to be “reserved” for women. Recent research evaluating the impact of this policy has shown a marked change in “perception of women’s abilities, improved women’s electoral chances, and raised aspirations and educational attainment for adolescent girls.” In addition, women in politics are more likely to vote on causes that improve the lives of women and girls.

In the United States, affirmative action to boost numbers of women or U.S. minority groups in educational institutions has often been met by vigorous litigation on the grounds that such policies amounted to a quota system which in itself was discriminatory and thereby unconstitutional.

Tell us what you think about how the U.S. can address the severe gender imbalance in its political representation. Are there strategies that you think would ensure that qualified women could better fill the pipeline towards political leadership?

Join the debate on how to bring more gender equality in our political system. Share your ideas on good policy solutions. Follow me on Twitter: @DrSVenkateswar and Like us on Facebook: P-Cubed at Roosevelt House.

Enjoy your week!

With my best wishes,