On March 11, 2014 UN Women Deputy Executive Director Policy and Program, John Hendra, made a statement during the “Where Are the Women in Politics” conference held in New York City, discussing the need for cultural transformation in order for political participation and equality. Not surprisingly, he mentions the need for a change in the way media interacts with these politicians:
“Achieving gender equality in political participation requires that we address the full range of barriers women face in competing in elections. As we know, these barriers include gender bias and discrimination, cultural attitudes that see women as less able and worthy to lead, the challenge of raising sufficient campaign funds, tackling corruption and vote buying, and inadequate support from political parties and the media.” -John Hendra
Anders Johnson, also speaking in this conference, says that it is not the developed countries that are leading the way in gaining more women in their political systems, but the countries that are developing institutions after monolithic regimes that are coming to terms that you need women, as well as men, to successfully and democratically run a country.
This is a bold statement, but surprisingly true. According to the Inter Parliamentary Union, several countries surpass the United States in terms of percentage of parliament seats held by women. A few include:
- Rwanda at 63.8%
- Andorra at 50%
- Cuba at 48.9%
- South Africa at 44.8%
- Senegal at 43.3%
(All statistics from the IPU, taken from 2013.)
With all of these percentages exceedingly more than double the U.S.’ tiny 18.5%, it’s clearly time something changed within “the most powerful free nation” in the world. While this issue stems far beyond media coverage, I don’t think it’s a bad place to start in order to revamp our country’s attitudes, biases and predispositions surrounding women in positions of leadership and political power.