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The problem of women leadership empowerment and underrepresentation in the higher governmental bodies is being discussed by many authors from all over the world. There are many reasons why such studies are essential, and the need for women leadership is justified by the population proportions relevant for the world in general and each particular state. The following studies concentrate on both tools of women empowerment and causes behind the underrepresentation and lack of political support/ambition. The three studies this paper is going to synthesize are three chapters from the research Women and Leadership; and the fourth analyzed article is “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran” by Janet Afary.
The first article from the book is written by Pippa Norris and is called “Opening the Door: Women Leaders Constitution Building in Iran and Afghanistan”. The author studies the women participation in parliament activities using the example of Iran and Afghanistan female leaders. Norris names the fast-track strategies including voluntary quotas, statutory gender quotas, and reserved seats strategy. However, a need to identify the outcomes of each of the strategies arises along with many other questions related to this issue. Therefore, the author uses a combination of methods to investigate these issues and develop some conclusions about the strategies implementation.
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First, a global overview of the problems is provided, and then two qualitative cases are compared and analyzed. In Iraq the implemented strategy is statutory set quotas while in Afghanistan the preference is given to reserved seats. The author then points the conditions that guarantee an effective implementation of each of the strategies. The investigated stages of strategy implementation are post-conflict and are dedicated to constitutional influence of female leaders.
The next article in Women and Leadership is “Will Gender Balance in Politics Come by Itself?” written by Drude Dahlerup. The author also raises the question about the efficiency of the women empowerment strategy (2007). The results of the research she has conducted are represented in the table which contains each region’s statistics in changing women’s roles in higher governmental bodies. She is mainly supportive of the need to introduce electoral quotes strategy that requires so-called “international translation” for each individual country conditions (Dahlerup, 2007). Therefore, both Norris and Dahlerup agree on the importance of quotes-based women leadership and empowerment strategy but they still state that certain adjustments have to be introduced to ensure the best outcomes in each state. It is also affirmed that electoral quotes are not so effective in single-membered electoral systems but Dahlerup stresses out that some positive outcomes are still demonstrated. Unlike Norris who concentrates on Arab regions with constitutional change and democratic transitions, Dahlerup pays more attention to Europe and its regional differences in women leadership.
Richard L. Fox, the author of the article “The Future of Women's Political Leadership: Gender and the Decision to Run for Elective Office”, concentrates on women leadership in the United States and studies citizen motivation to run for electoral office in the higher governmental body. He identifies a sufficient interest gap in the interest for office running: women were found less likely to run for the governmental office. The author justifies it by the lack of encouragement and support, and traditional gender roles in the society that are, by the way, supported by highly qualified women leaders as well (Fox, 2007). This article differs from the issues of the previous two studies but it still addresses the problem of women leadership underrepresentation; and while Norris and Dahlerup discuss the tools of women empowerment assessment, Fox concentrates on the peculiarities in women leadership psychology.
Janet Afary, the author of “Sexual Politics in Iran”, focuses on the gender roles shifting in the political system of Iran. Women leadership movement is identified as an old phenomenon, and the author gives non-numerical proofs of it with qualitative rather than quantitative content. The most interesting part is the history of women leadership starting from Islamic revolution up to modern times. Real-life examples are used to alter the stereotypes of Muslim women as weak and controlled by husbands, fathers or brothers (Afary, 2009). In spite of the limitations set by the government and traditionalist way of life, female movements in Iran still try to change the situation for women. They fight against the existing regime by extending the range of rights and responsibilities available for women to take along with men.
Identifying the highlights of the articles, it should be noted that women leadership strategies are not effective enough if they are not adjusted to the specific conditions of each particular state. The reserved seats strategy is the most severe as it means an intervention into the electoral process and puts certain limitations on the parties and candidates. Nevertheless, the case of Afghanistan demonstrates that this way is quite effective, and it is especially relevant in transitional democracies and countries with traditional attitude towards the equality of genders. Statutory gender quotas are most efficient in consolidating democracies characterized by continuous constitutional changes but still the outcomes depend on specific conditions as the case of Argentina, Iraq or France. That is why the unique designs of the implemented strategy are critical to successful results. Voluntary gender quotas are the most popular policy in a large number of countries due to their increased flexibility and usability. However, voluntary gender quotas are less efficient in party cultures where the traditional attitude towards gender equality is pervasive and the results are affected by leadership patronage due to the formal structure weakness. The proportion of women in parliament can be significantly changed if the fast-track strategies are specially created in accordance with the system peculiarities. Such strategies still have their limitations but they can give women a stronger voice in authorities and modify the traditional attitude towards women in higher governmental office.
Therefore, even in the most democratic regions such as Europe or the United States it is essential to study the implementation of electoral quotes into the parliament systems and their efficiency in every specific environment. Moreover, in more traditionalistic cultures it is effective to introduce other strategies such as reserved seats to ensure that women have a chance to voice their position even if it is not accepted by other society members.
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It is crucial to adjust the implemented tools to the conditions of each country and pay attention to the cultural peculiarities. This should ensure that the measure is not formal and symbolic but really supports women representation in authorities.
Apart from this it is highly recommended to focus on the psychology of women leadership underrepresentation in the higher legislative bodies. It is interesting to note that the reasons of this situation are universal for all countries in spite of the culture. Unfortunately, the lack of women leadership is connected with the traditional gender roles that are deeply rooted into the psychology of highly qualified women who could have been highly efficient.
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