sábado, 30 de julho de 2016
Women in charge: a new record?
Women in charge: a new record?
Merkel, May, Clinton: A Hillary presidency would add to a worldwide shift in what power looks like.
7/30/16, 6:29 PM CET
When British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met recently in Berlin for the first time since May had taken her new post, it wasn’t just a dramatic moment in itself — two female leaders of two of the world’s most powerful countries standing side by side in the German capital. It was also, perhaps, a hint of more to come.
Picture the major global actors of 2017. Among the leading candidates to be United Nations secretary general next year are several women, and if one of them is chosen, she will join a female managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a female director general of the World Health Organization. May and Merkel will find themselves on the world stage with the female presidents and prime ministers of Chile, Norway and South Korea, among other countries, and — if Hillary Clinton can pull out a win this fall — the United States.
In fact, by January 2017, as many as 21 countries could be led by a woman as president, prime minster or an equivalent high political office. That number might not seem all that big at first glance. But according to Politico Magazine’s calculations, it would be a record, topping the 19 female heads of state currently in power. In the United States, 1992 was dubbed the “year of the woman” when a record number of women were newly elected to the House and Senate. Now, 2017 could be the “year of the woman” around the world.
Which raises the question: If, as the old saw goes, women actually ruled the world, would it matter? Beyond cheery visions of Clinton-May-Merkel in locked arms, would a record number of female leaders really have an impact for women around the world? Would it change the course of global events, from the negotiation of the British exit from the European Union, to the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the global response to the Islamic State?
Women are more likely to be elected head of state by popular vote only if they have familial ties to a dominant male politician.
Of course, every woman head of state is different from the next, and often woman leaders expressly work to undermine stereotypes of being “compassionate” or “soft.” A quick Google search of the 19 current female heads of state reveals that at least eight of them are nicknamed the “Iron Lady” in their respective countries, presumably for their reputations as being tough or hawkish. In one of her first appearances in parliament as prime minister — as the first woman to hold the post since the original Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher — Theresa May was asked by a Scottish member of parliament whether she was “prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 innocent men, women and children.” She did not miss a beat, answering: “Yes.”
But there is a growing body of evidence showing that women, in certain ways, are more effective leaders than men. For instance, research has shown that women are more inclined toward “collaboration across ideological lines and social sectors,” as a report by the Institute for Inclusive Security, a think tank focused on women’s contributions to peacebuilding, put it. In the United States, on average, congresswomen co-sponsor more bills than men and can recruit more co-sponsors than men, according to data gathered by Political Parity, a nonpartisan group dedicated to increasing women’s participation in politics. The bills these women pass are also more successful, according to the same data: On average, women are 31 percent better at advancing bills farther in the legislative process than men are.
Female political leadership also has measurable effects on violence and peacebuilding.
“Women come across that divide and say, ‘Enough already,” says Melanne Verveer, who was U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues under Hillary Clinton at the State Department and now leads the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
That inclination toward compromise is especially useful in highly fractured countries, where female leaders are associated with higher rates of political and economic success. A 2013 Journal of International Affairs study showed that having a female leader in “highly diverse countries” correlated with a 6.6 percent higher GDP growth rate compared with having a male leader, because of female leaders’ ability to navigate divided societies and ethnic fractionalization.
Female political leadership also has measurable effects on violence and peacebuilding. According to the Institute for Inclusive Security, the higher the percentage of women involved in a country’s post-conflict negotiations, the less likely it is that the country will relapse into conflict — because, the institute’s research concludes, women are adept at building coalitions to push for peace, are often perceived as more honest brokers than men and are good at broadening societal participation. In fact, when women are involved in negotiating peace deals, those deals are 35 percent more likely to remain in effect for at least 15 years.
Female politicians are also known to bring more diverse policy issues to the table — particularly those concerning women, children and disadvantaged groups, according to the National Democratic Institute. The election of Hillary Clinton in the United States, for instance, could mean that issues like childcare, equal pay and parental leave — all issues Clinton has discussed on the campaign trail — will get more attention, says Verveer, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff when she was first lady. “Because it’s part of her experience and her perspective, she will move these issues from the margin to a much more prominent place in her administration.”
Two former female heads of state I interviewed — Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Tarja Halonen of Finland — said the same holds true when it comes to international issues. During her 12 years in office, Halonen, who served as president of Finland from 2000 to 2012, watched the U.N. struggle to pass resolutions concerning sexual and reproductive rights in part, she says, due to a lack of fellow women leaders to help her efforts. “I believe that with more women leaders, we could get the reforms that we need faster and better,” she told me. With a female U.N. secretary-general and as many as three P5+1 women leaders, it’s much easier to imagine such resolutions passing.
All this being said, there’s good reason to be only cautiously optimistic about the record number of woman leaders likely to ascend to power next year. When it comes to both heads of state and national parliaments, we’re still a long way from the 20 to 30 percent “critical mass” at which, experts say, women’s “influence grows perceptibly” in a group because “they can form coalitions, provide mutual support, and reshape the group’s overall culture,” as Suzanne Nossel wrote in a recent Foreign Policy article.
In a 2015 report by U.N. Women, the United Nations entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment, only 30 countries had parliaments with at least 30 percent female ministers, and eight countries still had absolutely no women in their entire governments. Even if there are a record number of female heads of state by next year, they’ll still only represent about 10 percent of the world total. Chinchilla, for one, who served as president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, argues that these numbers still aren’t yet high enough to change political institutions radically.
While many observers say the next U.N. secretary-general is likely to be one of six female candidates (including one from Costa Rica), Chinchilla has her doubts: Given that the General Assembly is still overwhelmingly male, she says she isn’t betting it will be “sensitive enough to the need to elect more women for this position.”
What’s worrisome is that trend line for women’s representation in international politics is not all that promising. In fact, the rate of increase in the number of female heads of state ascending around the world has plateaued in recent years, according to Julie Ballington, policy adviser at U.N. Women. At the ministerial level, progress has also been slow: In its report (which came with a press release titled, tellingly, “Sluggish progress on women in politics will hamper development”), U.N. Women found that, since 2005, the percentage of women ministers in the world had increased by just 3.5 percentage points.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (right) meets with then-British Home Secretary Theresa May at the London Conference on Somalia, in central London, on February 23, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (right) meets with then-British Home Secretary Theresa May at the London Conference on Somalia, in central London, on February 23, 2012 | Jason Reed / AFP via Getty Images
Without structural changes to the ways in which women are recruited into politics — whether parliamentary quotas or more equitable funding regulations — women are likely to continue to lag behind men when it comes to running for office. A 2013 American University study, for instance, found that 63 percent of college women asked about potentially running for office one day said they had “never thought about it,” compared to 43 percent of college men polled.
And according to research by Farida Jalalzai, a political scientist at Oklahoma State University, that’s not the only problem. Women are also more likely to be elected head of state by popular vote only if they have familial ties to a dominant male politician. In her review of all female presidents from 1960 to 2008, Jalalzai found that, out of seven dominant female presidents elected by popular vote, only one lacked connections to a political family: Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is still in power today. Hillary Clinton, of course, fits right into this pattern, as the wife of a former president.
“If a woman is ultimately successful in advancing to the Oval Office, what implications would this victory have for the gendered nature of the presidency worldwide?” Jalalzai asks. “It depends very much on the particular woman. If, like Clinton, she has familial ties to power, her election would represent more of the same.”
Women and women’s rights advocates around the world might rightfully be able to celebrate next year as a milestone. But it will also be a reminder of the long way we still have to go.