WOMEN 2000: WOMEN AND DECISION-MAKING OCTOBER 1997 CLOSING COMMENTS This edition of Women 2000 has sought to present some of the data with respect to women and decision-making in various sectors. It makes clear that 50 per cent of humanity -- cutting across all classes and cultures -- remains overwhelmingly under-represented in public decision-making. Righting gender imbalance is not only a rights issue, but one of cost-effectiveness that involves the need to address the obstacles women face in fulfilling their rights to participation, including the stereotypes thrust upon them from childhood in every culture. Dismantling these obstacles, as well as the caricatures that foster and support them, is a central concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, the implementation of which will be reviewed in the year 2000 by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It is also clear that failure to include women in positions of power and influence is a waste of human creativity and energy that is increasingly unaffordable. The participation of all citizens is central to democracy and thereby to any concept of peace. Democratizing decision-making is served by mainstreaming women in decision-making. What conclusions can be drawn from the available evidence about differences between male and female decision-makers? So far, none that can be advanced definitively. This issue of Women 2000 has attempted to present a variety of views on the subject from many parts of the world. Inconclusive as the evidence is currently, one point is clear: the styles and focus of women decision-makers -- at various levels -- reflects their structural position in society and the roles they typically play. The gender differences at work in every culture are reflected in the styles of both men and women decision-makers. In addition, the evidence suggests that once women achieve a critical mass, they have a chance to influence the agenda and to promote gender equality for the benefit of the society or community as a whole. One of the problems in considering the question of "making a difference" is that the distinction between "change" and "transformation" may tend to be blurred. Some champions of excluded or subjugated groups have gone so far as to claim that the admission of that group to equitable power-sharing would save the world -- perhaps unconscious of the burden, complexity and ultimate injustice imposed by such an expectation. But clearly, broadening women's access to positions of power and influence is likely to affect the agenda, and the status quo is more likely to be challenged. This issue of Women 2000 was compiled by the staff of the United Nations Divison for the Advancment of Women from material prepared in connection with expert group meetings organized by the Division and from other sources. Cover photo taken by Vassili Potapov, UNOMSA Observer, shows a young girl during preparations for first non-racial general elections, East Rand, Katlehong, South Africa, April 1994.
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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
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