“The Political Gender Gap: Gap or Past?”

(January 16, 2023)

On March 8, a woman from North Holland will once again be awarded the Rebius Pelletier Medal for her services to Women in Politics.

In 2019, the provincial council took the initiative to award this award 5 times. This year is the last time at the moment.

In this guest column, panelist and associate professor of political science Lisa Moggie discusses whether the political gender gap still needs attention.

The political gender gap: Gap or history?

The celebration of 100 years of universal suffrage in 2019 sparked wide thought. Women have had equal political rights for a century, but they are still structurally underrepresented in politics. how is that possible? Is that a problem? Are the measures necessary or will all be well in time? These questions have been the focus of lectures, plays, exhibitions and publications. New activist voices emerged and entered into dialogue with the ideas of women’s suffrage fighters, such as Aletta Jacobs, and with the feminists who fought for women’s rights in the 1970s. The North Holland District Council launched the Rebius Pelletier Medal to honor women committed to promoting the role of women in politics. Just a selection of the initiatives that have created momentum and awareness of the collaboration. Was this drive sufficient to bridge the political gender gap, or does it still require special attention?

As a refresher, the latest numbers at a glance

For the first time in history, the distribution of males to females was equal when the current cabinet took office. In other political classes, gender equality is more distant. As in 2012, the percentage of women in the House of Representatives is 40 percent. An increase compared to the previous period, but less than in 2010 when a record number of women were elected (42.7 percent). The share of women is about 30 percent among mayors, 27 percent among members of the House of Representatives and 28 percent among deputies. In the upper house, municipal council, and county council, the average share of women nationwide is 30, 37, and 33 percent, respectively. 2 of the 12 king’s commissioners are women. The underrepresentation of women in these different political segments is self-reinforcing. Being an alderman, for example, is often an initial process for becoming mayor. The low percentage of women among municipal council members negatively affects the flow of qualified candidates.

structural gap

The gender distribution percentages quickly provide evidence of a structural gender gap. Observing progress, stagnation, and regression is important to keep the subject alive. But for change, it is necessary to look beyond the women who have been elected or appointed. Political representation is a process consisting of several stages starting from political aspirations. Politics must become as normal for girls and young women as it is for boys and men. This requires modifying stereotypes and stimulating political awareness through inspiring examples. The existing political talents must remain within and move to leadership positions. This requires a political workplace and a safe space for women to feel supported.

Aletta Jacobs as a compass

We can use Aletta Jacobs’ work as a moral compass to bridge the political gender divide. Her manifesto from 1928 indicates that everyone—regardless of sex—has a responsibility to improve politics for the benefit of the next generation: “(…) I am sure we have not lived in vain. We have done our work and can leave the world satisfied that we leave it in a better state from what we found.”

How do we leave politics in a better state than we found it as voters and citizens, or as candidates, politicians or administrators? Ask the question: Where can I make the greatest contribution from my situation? Respond to sexism and misogyny, make room for women with political aspirations, and make sure they feel safe. Contribute to an inclusive culture for all who identify as female or non-binary and who resist participation in politics because they do not conform to the white male norm. Forge alliances, show solidarity, and start today.

Register candidate Ribbius Peletierpenning

Do you know a woman who plays an active role for women in politics in North Holland or who is a role model for other women? Until February 8, 2023, anyone can register a candidate for Ribbius Peletierpenning 2023 by sending an email to ribbiuspeletierpenning@noord-holland.nl, describing who she is and why she deserves an award. More information about the award can be found on the county’s website.

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