When the Beijing Platform was adopted in 1995, only 11.5% of members of parliaments worldwide were women. Today, there are around 22%. Why did it matter back then and why does it still matter now? This is our topic of this month.
No, one woman is not enough
A few years ago, I was having a conversation about feminism with someone who did not identify as a feminist. At some point he came to question even the existence of gender inequality. And his argument was the following:
In France, we have Christine Lagarde.Christine Lagarde was the first French woman to become Minister of Economy. She was also the first woman ever to be appointed as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, the international institution in charge of guaranteeing global financial stability.
So for this person, if a woman could be in such a position of power, then there was no inequality between men and women.
I have never heard someone who claimed that there was no racism and race-based inequalities in the United States because Barack Obama is President. How could one woman in a position of power solve the problem of gender inequality, all by herself, simply by existing?
The political world, a hostile environment for women
This is the prevalent logic: if women are not there, it is because they do not want to. Or because they are incompetent. Or both.
Blaming women is something that our societies have been doing forever. Making women responsible for their absence in decision-making is easier than questioning our decision-making systems.
When I see women in positions of power, I always think to myself: what did this woman have to go through to make it there? How many sexist jokes must she have heard? How many times has she been interrupted in meetings by male colleagues, or mansplained her job? What are the chances that she experienced sexual harassment?
Sexist jokes and sexual harassment are part of the everyday life of more working women than we would like to. In France, in 2014, female politicians massively revealed the sexist comments they received on a Tumblr: “Your speech was very technical for a woman”, “Barbie does politics”, “I’ll vote for your candidate if you show me your breasts” are only examples of how prevalent sexism is in the political sphere.
More than woman leaders, we need feminist leaders: people who will address sexism at its core and fight it in the field of politics as much as in other spheres of society. We need political systems where women can be recognised as competent. We need to demand that skills and talent be the criteria to build a political career and become a leader, not gender.
This month’s contributions on women in power and decision-making:
- Lithuania‘s first female president – Dalia, the Baltic “Iron Lady”
- Women and Career in Serbia
- Women in politics in the UK
- An interview with Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby
- Czech Republic: Politics remains a male domain
- Female politicians as puppets? – The roles of Polish women in politics
- Rightist women against human rights in France and Germany
- Conservative female MPs stand for anti-women policy in Latvia. Can quotas make it any better?