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Modified on 2013/05/16 14:43 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Power and decision-making
From gender issues to gender statistics on power and decision-making in politics and governance: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Are women underrepresented in parliament? Members in national parliaments by chamber and sex Administrative records
Do women have the same chances of being elected as men? Candidates in election by sex
Elected candidates by sex
Administrative records
Are women appointed ministers and sub-ministers as often as men?
Are some types of ministry more likely than others to have women as minister or sub-ministers?
Ministerial and sub-ministerial positions by portfolio and sex Administrative records
Are women elected mayors as often as men? Number of mayors by sex Administrative records

  • + Gender issues
    • Women’s participation in political decision-making as full and equal partners with men has not yet been achieved. Although women make up about half of the electorate and have attained the right to vote and hold office in almost all countries of the world, they continue to be underrepresented as members of national parliaments (United Nations, 2010; Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2011). The representation of women has steadily improved worldwide, but the progress has been slow (United Nations, 2010; Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2011).

      Women’s limited representation in parliaments is directly correlated with low representation of women in political parties, especially in the higher echelons, and low proportion of women among the electoral candidates. Parties have an important role in preparing and selecting candidates for election and support them in positions of leadership and governance. However, even when women are included among the candidates for election, their likelihood of being elected tend to be lower than men’s (United Nations, 2010). The situation varies across countries. While in most countries the success rate of female candidates to be elected is much lower than male candidates’ or even zero (extreme case where no female candidates were successfully elected), in a small number of countries, mostly located in Africa, female candidates have similar election rates to male candidates or even higher (United Nations, 2010).

      Use of gender quotas is one of the mechanisms to offset obstacles that women face in the electoral process and to increase women’s access to political decision-making. The type of quota will depend on the electoral system and may refer to (a) reserved seats for women in a legislative assembly; (b) legislated reserved places on electoral lists for female candidates; and (c) voluntary political party quota. In many countries electoral gender quotas proved to be an effective measure of improving gender balance in parliament (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2005).

      Women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making positions in government cabinets in all regions of the world, although significant improvements have been recorded (United Nations, 2010). Progress, however, bypassed some countries. There are countries with no female ministers. At sub-minister level, although women are still underrepresented, they generally hold a greater proportion of posts than at minister-level. Women’s representation in leadership positions, whether ministerial or sub-ministerial, is generally higher in social ministries (such as family, youth, gender equality, education) than in economic and political ministries (such as parliamentary affairs and defence) (Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women, 2012). Similar to the situation in national parliaments, local governments in all world regions are far from achieving gender balance within decision-making positions. The share of women mayors is low and the share of women councillors is even lower (United Nations, 2010). A number of countries have applied constitutional or legislative gender quotas to hasten progress towards more equitable representation at the local level of government. This has played a part in the higher participation of women in those local councils.

      Having women in elected and decision-making positions is not the only way to ameliorate gender sensitive policies and legislation. Indeed, political participation requires that women actually participate in the electoral process. Elected positions are dependent on votes, which can radically alter the make-up of elected chambers. Two issues are crucial to votes as indicators of women’s involvement in the decision-making process. Firstly, there is the question of voter registration. Women’s suffrage has been a slow process, with some countries only very recently allowing women to vote. This historical injustice, combined with widespread unequal access to services and lack of information means that female voter registration tends to be lower than that of men’s. Secondly, how many women actually exercise the right to vote is also of central importance in understanding their role in decision-making. Electoral results can vary greatly according to female voter turnout, given than women are more likely to support female candidates and those with political platforms that will benefit the lives of women.

  • + Data needed
    • Registered voters by sex

      Voter turnout by sex

      Members in national parliaments by parliament chamber and sex

      Candidates in elections by sex

      Elected candidates by sex

      Additional qualitative information may refer to (a) reserved seats for women in a legislative assembly; (b) legislated reserved places on electoral lists for female candidates; (c) voluntary political party quota

      Members of governing bodies of political parties and senior posts by sex

      Ministerial positions by sex and area of ministry

      Sub-ministerial positions by sex and area of ministry

      Mayors by sex and by size of city/municipality

      Councillors in local government by sex

      Legislators by sex



  • + Sources of data
    • Administrative records can be used as source of data on women and men in positions of power and decision-making in politics and governance, at national or local levels, covering members of parliament; candidates in elections; ministerial and sub-ministerial positions; mayors and councillors.

      Electoral Management Bodies are useful to obtain data on voter registration and turnout.

      Population censuses can provide data on legislators when a detailed classification of occupations is used in data collection.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • While data on participation of women in decision-making at national level are readily available from administrative sources, knowledge about the situation of women at local levels is made more difficult by the lack of sex-disaggregated data. Furthermore, national statistical offices in many countries do not routinely produce data on positions of power and decision-making in politics and governance based on administrative records. More often they are able to collect data on legislators in population censuses, when a detailed classification of occupations is used. Legislators can be distinguished from other occupations at three-digit ISCO (International Standard Classification of Occupations) level. However, for the purpose of analysing the representation of women and men in positions of power and decision-making, the ISCO category of legislators is relatively heterogeneous, including various occupations such as ministers, senators, government/legislative secretary, and president of the government.

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