Political Empowerment

Including Women's Voices in Politics

Although women can vote and run for public office in nearly every country, in 2013, they accounted for only 21 percent of parliamentarians worldwide and served as head of state or head of government in twenty-four countries. Talented women who would make effective public leaders are excluded from the pool of available candidates due to financial, social and legal barriers, to the detriment of their communities. When women hold public office, they prioritize public goods that are of concern to women, including water, infrastructure, sanitation, roads, education and health.

With female political leaders present, female citizens engage more in civic discussion, women and minorities are more likely to report crimes committed against them, and adolescent girls’ career aspirations and educational attainment increase while their time spent on household chores decreases.

Because of gendered behavioral expectations, women face different political challenges and opportunities than men. When they perceive female politicians as power-seeking, voters react negatively with feelings of moral outrage. Although women’s leadership is imperative for their communities, particularly for other women and adolescent girls, some norms inhibit women’s political participation.

What We Can Do to Capitalize on Women’s Leadership in Politics
Current research posits numerous explanations for the lack of women in leadership roles, including gender discrimination, lack of female role models, aversion to competitive environments, family responsibilities and social norms. We can address these challenges through structural changes to political frameworks and social changes in how we expect women and leaders to behave, which can give way to increasing women’s political aspirations.

  • Political Training Programs: Mentorship, confidence building, media training and political campaign education are all effective tools to increase adolescent girls’ and women’s political aspirations and efficacy despite structural obstacles.