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Women Politicians Pay Too High a Personal Cost for Their Leadership

In the wake of her decision to resign, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s outgoing first minister, said that life for women politicians who “put their head above the parapet” is “much harsher” and “more hostile” now than at any time in her decades-long career.

Women are better represented in politics than ever and with flourishing online feminist activism such as #MeToo, more and more women publicly claim their rights. This, however, has created a backlash against women’s rights that women in the public eye bear the brunt of.

There are more women than ever in political office. As of December 2022, 26.4% of parliamentarians worldwide are women and there are 30 women serving as elected heads of state or heads of government.

Yet, the UN Women agency calculates that at the current rate, it will take 130 years to reach gender equality in the highest positions of power. The trajectory is upward. The rate of progress, slow.

Having women dare to “put their head above the parapet” is important. Research has shown that most legislative changes on women’s issues worldwide have been achieved thanks to pressure from feminist movements. Where women are part of the decision-making process they are able to instigate change and improve lives, not only by addressing women’s issues but also by, for instance, promoting welfare policies and investing in public goods. This is also a very current issue. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been argued that countries headed through the crisis by women leaders emerged form the pandemic in better shape.

The Conversation

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