In 2000, all member states of the United Nations agreed upon the eight Millennium Development Goals. The third goal on the list was “To promote gender equality and empower women”. One of the specifics of the goal was to achieve equal gender representation in all national legislatures. Over 15 years has passed since the global community agreed on this goal, so how much progress has been made?
According to the UN, since 1995, when the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s empowerment was adopted, the global average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled, growing from 11 per cent in 1995 to 22 percent in January 2015. While there has been significant growth in women representation in national governments, the number of countries who have reached gender equality in their legislatures is disappointingly small. Rwanda was the first country to reach equal gender representation on their national legislatures and currently women make up 64% of the parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The only other country to have more then 50% women in their national legislature is Bolivia at 53%.
The global average for women in national legislatures is only at 22.5%. Unfortunately the United States falls below the global average. Women only make up 19% of the national legislature in congress. The US is ranked 95th out of 191 countries, placing the country in between Kenya and Kyrgyzstan on IPU’s list.
Why are there still so few women in the United States Congress? In a 2008 article published in The Journal of Politics that looked at how female politicians fare in primary elections, the article found that women who run for office are just as likely to win as men. The problem is fewer women are likely to run for office then men so the cycle of underrepresentation continues. In order to reach gender equality in the US Congress we need to encourage more women to run for office.
To learn more about the state of women around the world and the progress being made visit the Women’s Museum of California this month for our Women In Action exhibit.
Melissa Jones, Social Media Coordinator
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