WOMEN 2000: WOMEN AND DECISION-MAKING OCTOBER 1997 WHERE ARE THE WOMEN DECISION-MAKERS TODAY? More than two decades after the first United Nations conference on women in 1975, the statistical picture for women's participation at high levels of decision-making remains bleak -- certainly in the terms spelt out by the Platform of Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The Beijing Platform for Action "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to take part in the Government of his/her country . . . . Achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning. Equality in political decision-making performs a leverage function without which it is highly unlikely that a real integration of the equality dimension in government policy-making is feasible . . . ." Women in the Public Sector In this sector, it is interesting to note that the proportion of women who reigned as powerful queens in their own right or as consorts during the more than 2,000 years before the advent of democracy far exceeds the proportion of women government leaders in our century.24/ Since the end of the Second World War, 28 women have been elected as heads of State or Government. Only Norway and Sweden have so far achieved gender equality at the cabinet level. Close-up: Norway In 1972, when Norway's small, new Social Democratic party ruled that women should be elected to half its posts at each level, political life throughout the country took a turn towards gender balance. By the spring of 1976, all six parties in parliament had either a woman leader or one who strongly favoured women's issues. Eager to attract new voters -- or keep others from defecting -- each party increasingly nominated women candidates. Almost all institutionalized quotas. Today, 40 per cent of parliamentary seats are reserved for women. Moreover, since 1988, Norway's Equal Status Act has mandated at least 40 per cent representation on all other public committees, boards and agencies, both elective and appointive. Nonetheless, in Norway, as in the rest of Scandinavia, old gender patterns persist in the workplace, even in public-sector jobs. Women still perform almost 90 per cent of the country's caretaking, whether of children or the elderly, and spend nearly twice as much time as men in unpaid work.25/ Only a handful of countries have chosen women to hold the portfolios of foreign policy, finance, trade or defence -- sectors that were not only traditionally dominated by men, but are also pivotal in international relations and can be viewed as the "public" face of a nation, in contrast to its domestic or "private" face. At present, only in the Caribbean do women represent more than 20 per cent of ministers in fields outside the social fields and in departments of justice. In Africa, only a handful of high executive offices, including ministries outside the areas of social affairs, have been held by women. These included, in 1994, Uganda's Vice President, Botswana's and Liberia's Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Burundi's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ghana's Minister of Trade and Industry. At the international level, of the 185 United Nations Member States, only seven women head permanent diplomatic missions as of mid-1997: the Dominican Republic, Guinea, Jamaica, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein and Turkmenistan. At the United Nations Secretariat level, only five United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, of which there are 36 altogether, are headed by women: the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme. Women also head important entities dealing with human rights, the war crimes tribunals and the disarmament institute. In senior national civil service positions, the number of women has continued to increase -- still largely in social welfare ministries, which have traditionally been associated with some of women's "caring" activities, but to a lesser extent in others, such as energy, agriculture and the environment. These latter ministries have been dominated by men -- perhaps because of the current prominence of these areas in the economic and foreign policy agendas of Governments. While the fields of health, education, housing and community development doubtless mirror major concerns of many women throughout the world, female concentration in these ministries perpetuates traditions of women managing women and certainly does not reflect the growing numbers of women economists, management experts, lawyers and engineers. Women at ministerial and sub-ministerial levels - The number of women ministers worldwide doubled from 3.4 per cent in 1987 to 6.8 per cent in 1996 - Globally, 15 countries have achieved 20 per cent to 30 per cent women at the ministerial level - In 48 countries, there were no women ministers - Globally, only 9.9 per cent of all sub-ministerial positions (Deputy Minister, Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary) were held by women - In 136 countries, women held no ministerial positions concerned with the economy - In 1997, two women headed Governments, while three others were heads of State26/ For parliaments, the record world average of women's representation was reached in 1988, when women representatives accounted for 14.8 per cent of all parliamentarians. In 1995, this dropped to 11.3 per cent.27/ The current world average of 11.7 per cent28/ still indicates a situation in which women are regarded at best as a "special-interest group" rather than half of humankind. In one paper after another from different parts of the world, whether government report or scholarly study, men's control over women at the household level emerges as a major barrier to women's effective participation in public affairs. In a number of instances - - whatever their situation in the civil law of the land -- women must obtain the consent of their husbands to enter public life. According to Janet Mukwaya, Minister of Gender and Community Development in Uganda, "The woman politician has to learn to balance her time between politics and her traditional gender role of social reproduction and housekeeping."29/ In older democracies, too, argues the English activist Georgina Ashworth, the "male culture of politics" acts as a major barrier to women who wish to serve in public life. This institutional culture, she adds, is characterized by "adversarial proceedings, the coercion to conform to the central interests of the parties, the timing of meetings and sessions, the pervasiveness of patronage, the distance of politics from daily realities . . .".30/ Women's participation in local politics has long been viewed as an extension of women's traditional involvement in household management. This idea can be used either to devalue or to promote efforts to increase women's numbers in local government, where their political activity has so far been most marked. However, current trends towards the devolution of power may make holding local office a far more powerful and prestigious occupation than it has been up to the present. Because so many women still shoulder disproportionate responsibilities for household management and therefore cannot leave home for remote capitals, devolution provides a significant means of making their voices heard nationally. Women in the Private Sector The movement of more and more power into the marketplace, both nationally and transnationally, raises the important question of the extent to which women have entered decision-making in the private sector of the economy. Little research has so far been carried out on the subject of women in senior management -- itself a reflection of the low status of the issue. A 1996 survey of women in top management posts in US Fortune 500 companies revealed that women held only 2 per cent of the highest-paid positions and 10 per cent of corporate officer posts. The figure was the same for the top management positions of Finland, Malaysia and Morocco. In South Africa, where the post-apartheid situation pits race sharply against gender, often to the detriment of the latter, 41 women occupied high executive office in the country's leading 100 companies. Despite unprecedented rates of economic growth in the Republic of Korea, the proportion of women occupying board seats remained constant at 0.1 per cent between 1985 and 1992; at the level of department head, percentages moved from 0 to 0.1. 31/ According to Business Week in 1992, at current rates, it will take 475 years before women reach equality in the executive suite.32/ However, as one observer notes: "we are in the midst of a profound paradigm shift in which large numbers of women who entered the workplace nearly a quarter of a century ago and have paid their dues in middle- management positions, are poised to enter the senior levels of corporations and public office in record numbers. These women have the capacity to profoundly change the nature of the workplace . . . ."33/ Another trend supports the idea that women may soon be much more prominent in high-level corporate decision-making: many new business thinkers believe that diversity is essential to developing new markets -- especially because women represent a fast-growing share of consumers for a vast variety of products and services beyond those usually associated with household needs. In the United States, although women's earnings are only 70 per cent of men's, that sum is almost $400 billion.34/ From a "rational" business point of view, excluding women from leadership positions is simply a waste of talent. Nonetheless, it remains necessary to "sell" this elementary notion to most corporations. Where this has been done, as among the member companies of the British campaign Opportunity 2000, women's share of corporate board directors rose from 5 per cent to 11.2 per cent after less than five years.35/ By mid-1997, 20 high-profile women had launched the Women's Leadership Conference of the Americas, funded by the Inter- American Development Bank, to bring more women to the economic as well as political front lines of the western hemisphere. According to a recent study, two major problems plague the appointment of women to top private-sector posts. First, businesswomen tend to specialize rather than to go into general management -- the latter generally being viewed as the experience essential to the highest ranks of decision-making. Women executives tend to be clustered in such areas as personnel and training. Second -- and far more difficult to change -- selection for senior management posts tends to be far less formal and objective than at lower levels. At the top, membership in the "old boy network" is still considered by some to be imperative.36/ Women may overcome such obstacles by networking among themselves, as well as with strategically placed men -- and, indeed, seem to be doing just that more and more each day. To advance women in the private sector - Go beyond conventional methods of recruitment and conventional labour pools - Modify selection profiles to reflect new skill mixes needed for changing programmes, including the ability to work in an environment of diversity and commitment to gender issues - Create an environment that encourages women to move into management, and modify practices to increase their rate of selection and promotion in order to achieve a critical mass at all levels of the organization - Develop practical interventions to address dual-career issues - Create a work environment to enable all employees to balance work and family life - Hold managers responsible for developing action plans and for achieving change in their areas of responsibility, and link it to performance evaluation and rewards - Invest in developing the skills of men and women to work together in management and decision-making - Encourage the growth of support systems, such as mentoring and coaching - Learn from initiatives and best practices of other companies and institutions37/ Women and Organized Labour Trade union leadership today continues to reflect the origins of the labour movement in heavy industry, and as such is predominantly male. Even in Sweden, where women have reached "critical mass" in government and politics, women hold only 20 per cent of executive posts in trade unions. Collective bargaining still tends to be gender-blind and therefore perpetuates women's disadvantages. Nonetheless, many unions in industrialized nations now strive actively to promote gender equality rather than simply to avoid discrimination. For example, in 1991, the British Trades Union Conference (TUC) issued a guide which addressed nine major areas of inequality, including pay, training and promotion, working hours and child care. Similarly, in 1992 after a three-year struggle, the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), instituted the post of "gender coordinator". The coordinator helped identify as "women's problems" the lack of childcare facilities and men's lack of assistance in housework.38/ The experience of the Korean Women Workers Association during the 1980s remains instructive because it so clearly echoed that of women who tried to organize in the west almost a century ago. Employers made such statements as "If workers were liberated, women would automatically be liberated". Male union leaders also countered women's requests with the argument that discussion of women's issues would cause confusion and division in the labour movement.39/ Organizing workers today involves confronting two increasing problems. First, more and more jobs, notably those for women, are informal, even when they constitute an integral part of the formal sector -- including the production of toys, apparel, shoes and components for high-tech industries. The experience of the Indian Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), founded in 1973, still stands as a model for the organization of women labourers doing "informal" jobs. A second labour question of growing proportions worldwide is the organization of women workers who cross borders, continents and oceans. Women and Religious Bodies In a number of religions today, there is serious debate over women's role as leaders. Despite the prominence of priestesses in many ancient religions, as well as the participation of women as deacons and leaders of congregations in early Christianity, religious authorities worldwide remain predominantly male. Where religion is identified with the State -- as it generally has been historically and still is in several countries -- it tends to compound the many problems of women's access to power. Close-up: Namibia The under-representation of women among church leaders in Namibia may be one reason why Christian beliefs so often continue to take the form of conservative doctrine which works against the interests of women. For example, biblical teachings are often cited in both personal and political settings to justify the subordination of women, particularly in the family context. Church groupings continue to speak out against political reforms affecting women such as abortion, prostitution, the liberalization of Namibia's laws on abortion and education on AIDS and family planning. The church in Namibia does not speak with one voice, however, and some church leaders have also come out in strong support of women's issues.40/ Frequently, religions portray women either as the source of evil and/or chaos or as the prototype of submission and self-sacrifice -- often as both in separate figures. None of these images encourages the idea of leadership by women among citizens of either sex. In addition, the vast majority of religious institutions themselves have excluded women from leadership roles. Religious beliefs have also played a major role in positing and reinforcing the idea of the private sector/family as women's sphere and the public sector/politics as men's sphere. Often, the interpretation of religious doctrine rather than the doctrine itself tends to reinforce gender stereotyping, while the low representation of women in the leadership of religious institutions may tend to perpetuate gender insensitivity. Of the 33 Christian denominations that make up the National Council of Churches of the United States of America, 21 Protestant churches ordain women as clergy. Even in those, however, gender discrimination persists in one or another form. In the Episcopal Church, which now numbers seven women among its bishops, male priests earn, on average, US$ 5000 a year more than their female counterparts.41/ Women in Ministries of Justice and Law Enforcement Bodies In ancient Egypt and in the west, justice has been symbolized by women -- and the facts have begun to mirror the image in many places. Since 1987, the percentage of women at the ministerial level in law and justice ministries in Europe, Canada and the United States increased from 10 per cent to 21 per cent.42/ The Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations tribunals established by the international community to try war crimes, including mass rape in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, is Canadian jurist Louise Arbour. The recruitment of women to police positions at all levels is also vital because it is catalytic in changing attitudes towards women's exercise of power in all areas. Police on patrol are generally the closest representatives of authority outside the home. Brazil was the first of a number of Latin American countries -- those of the Andean region in particular -- to institute "women's police stations" that deal with gender violence, punishing a variety of crimes previously regarded as "family", "private" or "health" matters. "The extent to which the institutions of government and civil society are able to confront the problem of gender violence is itself a measure of democracy", writes Alexandra Ayala-Marin in her recent essay on the administration of justice and changing ideas of "security" from national defense to safety in streets and homes.43/ To Kiran Bedi, former Inspector-General of Prisons in Delhi, India, police work for and of women should be a door to legal literacy and other skills and resources necessary to exercising full citizenship.44/ At the World Congress on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm from 26 to 31 August 1996, Asian, Caribbean and Latin American women called for the inclusion of women in border patrols to identify and apprehend sex traffickers, as well as the continued activity of Interpol in this growing area of international crime. Women in the Military and in Peacemaking Some countries still bar women totally from the military; some make it obligatory; almost all exclude women from combat-related duties.45/ And in a number of the revolutions of the latter half of the twentieth century whose credo has been democracy -- among them that of Nicaragua -- women have been urged to "earn" the right to equality with men through taking up arms. In many of the liberation movements of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, women have fought side by side with men. In this connection, it is also worth noting that women's movements such as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and the Plenary of Uruguayan Women played significant roles in toppling violent military regimes in their respective countries. Close-up: Nicaragua In terms of the advancement of women, Nicaragua presents a variety of paradoxes. Although women constituted approximately 30 per cent of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion (FSLN) guerrillas and had played major roles in political protest for two decades before the Front came to power in 1979, they were regarded by many of their male comrades as "earning" basic rights through revolutionary involvement rather than based on a concept of women's intrinsic equality with men. The Sandinista Movement of Nicaraguan Women (AMNLAE) worked to promote the advancement of women in all spheres, including their integration into grass-roots and labour organizations. In the campaign that cut Nicaraguan illiteracy from 50 to 13 per cent within a year, women constituted 60 per cent of the volunteer instructors -- many, like their Cuban counterparts during the 1960s, leaving comfortable urban homes to live among indigenous peasants in the war- devastated countryside. They also helped domestic servants unionize in towns and cities, established cooperatives and public health projects, and helped pass a law for the sharing of household chores between women and men. The 1990 election of Violeta Chamorro and her coalition derived in part from weariness of counter-insurgency and continued warfare; men and women together voted in large numbers for an end to carnage and the military draft.46/ Whether one advocates or opposes combat-related roles for women, many of today's political leaders have stressed their military records during their campaigns for high office, even in countries such as France and the United States of America, free of overt armed rule. In the early days of western women's suffrage, service in the armed forces was a condition for the franchise itself; in several countries after the First World War, if a woman had not actively engaged in war efforts herself, her right to vote derived from close kinship with a serviceman. Today, the ancient identification of men with armed conflict perpetuates the exclusion of women worldwide from peace and security affairs. Consequently, with few exceptions, women are glaringly under- represented in virtually all bodies directly concerned with conflict resolution and the peace-building process in ravaged countries. Commenting on this phenomenon, Angela King, United Nations Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and former head of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa, put forward what she called two principles of concern: "When a critical mass of women is involved in a peace-related mission, women in the host country, often a key element in the settlement of disputes at the community level, are mobilized through a positive demonstration effect of the role models of the women on the mission. "The presence of women peacekeepers seems to be a potent ingredient in fostering and maintaining confidence and trust among the local population.47/ Does this trust grow out of a feeling that most women appear to have a somewhat different approach to violence, conflict and the resolution of conflict than most men involved in peace and security matters? This was one of the conclusions reached by an Expert Group Meeting on Political Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution organized jointly by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women and the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo in 1996. These experts also advocated "an overhaul of the idea of what constitutes security" in the light of "the importance of peace as a means for achieving democracy". Further, they stated that "the absence of women from decision-making processes indicates a value system that supports gender stereotypes that are not conducive to peace".48/ NOTES 24/ Mim Kelber, ed., Women and Government: New Ways to Power, Westport, Connecticut, Praeger, 1994. 25/ Ibid. 26/ Data compiled by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, based on information from the Worldwide Government Directory, Bethesda, Maryland, January 1996. 27/ Inter-Parliamentary Union, Women in Parliaments 1945 -1995: A World Statistical Survey, Geneva, IPU, 1995, p. 26. 28/ Inter-Parliamentary Union, Men and Women in Politics:Democracy Still in the Making, Geneva, IPU, 1997, p. 34. 29/ Aderinwale, ed., op. cit., pp. 63-64. 30/ Georgina Ashworth, "Gendered Governance: An Agenda for Change", Gender in Development Monograph Series No. 3, New York, UNDP, 1996. 31/ Data from papers prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-making in International Financial Institutions and Transnational Corporations, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, 11-15 November 1996 (EGM/EDM/IFI- TNC/1996/REP.1). 32/ K. Spillar, as quoted in Adler and Izraeli, op. cit., p. 7. 33/ M. Fanning, op. cit. 34/ Claire Bangasser, "Women Entrepreneurs: Some Issues and Proposals", paper prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-Making, United Nations, New York, 7-11 November 1994, (EDM/1994/WP.1). 35/ Valerie Hammond, "Women and Senior Economic Decision-Making; the Experience of the United Kingdom", paper prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-Making in International Financial Institutions and Transnational Corporations, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, 11-15 November 1996, (EDM/IFI-TNC/1996/WP.1). 36/ Padma Mallampally, "Transnational Corporations, the Employment of Women, and Women's Participation in Decision-Making", paper prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-Making in International Financial Institutions and Transnational Corporations, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, 11 - 15 November 1996 (EDM/IFI-TNC/1996/BP.2). 37/ Report of the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Women in Economic Decision-Making in International Financial Institutions and Transnational Corporations, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, 11-15 November 1996 (EDM/IFI-TNC/1996/REP.1). 38/ Marilee Karl, Women and Empowerment: Participation and Decision Making" New Jersey, Zed Books, 1995, p. 51. 39/ Ibid., p. 52. 40/ Op. cit., note 9. 41/ Adair T. Lummis, co-author of Women of the Cloth (New York, 1993), as cited in Gustav Niehbuhr, "For Episcopalians, Debate on Women", New York Times, 18 July 1997. 42/ Op. cit., note 26. 43/ Alexander Ayala-Marin, "Women's Human Rights and the Police: an Andean Regional Seminar", in Ana Maria Brasiliero, op. cit., p. 57. 44/ "The Large Roof Concept and Life Cap", in Eva Freidlander, ed., Look at the World Through Women's Eyes: Plenary Speeches from the NGO Forum on Women: Beijing '95, New York, 1996. 45/ "Women in International Decision-Making: Peace and Security Areas", background paper prepared for the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Gender and the Agenda for Peace, New York, 5-9 December 1994 (GAP/1994/BP.1). 46/ Margaret Randall, Sandino's Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan Writers, Vancouver, 1981; and B. Seitz, "From Home to Street: Women and Revolution in Nicaragua", in J. M. Bystydzienski, ed., Women Transforming Politics: Worldwide Strategies for Empowerment, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1992. 47/ Contribution from"Women at the Peace Table", a panel discussion sponsored by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in commemoration of International Women's Day, United Nations Headquarters, 6 March 1997. 48/ Report of the Expert Group Meeting on Political Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution: The Impact of Gender Difference, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 7-11 October, 1996 (EGM/PDCR/1996/REP.1).
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