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Women and Leadership: The Missed Millennium Development Goal

Women and Leadership: The Missed Millennium Development Goal

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perceptions and should use them to their advantage intheir electoral campaigns.5. Turning to women in the private sector, there is considerableevidence from the US, UK and Ireland that the presence of women inmanagerial roles is helping national businesses thrive. In the USA,according to Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organizationworking to advance women in business, women comprise 13.6percent of the boards of the largest 500 U.S. companies. Accordingto recent studies, women make 80 percent of all purchase decisions.Forty-five percent of investors are women 4 . This is not only the casein the US, but in other countries. Women make up a sizableconsumer base in developing countries too. Their views andconcerns can contribute to greater comparative advantage forbusinesses, whether in the service or manufacturing industries.6. A recent article from the USA, analysed the relationships betweencorporate governance, board diversity, and firm value for Fortune1000 firms. Board diversity was defined as the percentage of women,African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics on the board of directors.After controlling for size, industry, and other corporate governancemeasures, the report found significant positive relationships betweenthe fraction of women or minorities on the board and firm value. Thereport found that the companies that recruit, retain and advancediverse work forces, including women — and boards — will have acompetitive advantage in the marketplace.7. It would be very amiss not to mention the contributions of theleaders of the women’s movement to national and internationaldevelopment agendas. Through their leadership in civil society,women have influenced national and international responses tomajor development and political challenges of the 20 th century. Thepeace movement, the anti-colonial struggles, the green movement,women’s rights, to name a few. Women’s leadership, women’svisions and organising have influenced global decision-making.Global Trends in Women’s Political Leadership4 http://mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/2004-corpgov.phpOctober 11, 2007 Page 6/16

1. Two global reviews that took place in 2005 brought attention tothe issue of women’s political participation – the Beijing+ 10 andMDG+5. It was noted that the number of women in nationalparliaments was increasing, but one must add - very slowly!Globally, women represent 17.5 per cent of single and lowerhouses of parliament, up from 13 per cent in 1990. At this speed, itwill take 108 years for the world’s legislatures to have equalrepresentation of women and men! We therefore need to revise ourstrategies to increase the number of women candidates, and toimprove their chances of winning elections. We should not forgetthough, that this is not just a game of numbers. It is only whenwe achieve 50 percent female representation, and when that 50percent possess the same agency as men to shape decisionsand outcomes, that we will have reached true gender equality.2. It is interesting to note that women’s political participation is notan issue of rich or poor or north and south. Rwanda, coming out ofgenocide and among the least developed countries of the world isleading the way, and is close to parity with 49 per cent ofparliamentary seats occupied by women, followed by Sweden andCosta Rica, where women’s representation is 47 and 39 per cent,respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, is Oceania, theregion lagging most behind, and women lawmakers are absentaltogether in some countries of the region. In the 2006 elections inthe Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, no women were elected to thelower houses of parliament.3. In the Arab States, where progress has been very slow, there aresome encouraging signs. Last year (2006), for the first time,women were able to contest parliamentary elections in Kuwait, 2 ofthem successfully. In the United Arab Emirates, women won 23 percent of seats. In Bahrain, a woman was elected to the lower houseof parliament for the first time in that nation’s history. The journeyhas started but there is still a long way to go.[Refer to graph 1 on global trends in the lower house of parliament bygender]4. In terms of a regional comparison, Latin America and theCaribbean saw an increase from 15% to 20% in a seven yearOctober 11, 2007 Page 7/16

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