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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, is the country’s first female premier leaders worldwide today. For instance, women made up six per cent of all national leaders in 2009 and, while this figure did show some improvement, it only weighed in at around seven per cent by 2014. “The executive glass ceiling is truly shattered in contexts like Finland (where, to date, three different women leaders have come to power), only cracked in Britain (with Margaret Thatcher as the only example of a female prime minister), and remains firmly intact in the United States,” writes Farida Jalalzai in The Washington Post. Furthermore, women seem to govern more in systems where they are granted fewer powers by their office – and they are more likely to be appointed prime minister than be elected to presidential office. “Women’s greater tendency to be prime ministers is significant since prime ministers routinely possess fewer powers than presidents,” says Jalalzai, who is also the author of Shattered, Cracked, or Firmly Intact? Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide. “Several female prime ministers hold weak positions. A major liability facing nearly all the weak prime ministers is that they can be dismissed by both parliament AND the president.” In her 2008 concession speech, Hillary Clinton said: “I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.” Such a claim does not seem unfounded when four per cent of Americans polled in 2014 by analytics company Gallup stated Clinton’s gender as their primary reason for not wanting her to gain presidency in 2016 – while her stance on ‘issues’, including employment and health care, weighed in at an average of one per cent a pop. Similarly overlooking any political characteristics, 18 per cent of respondents said that it would be good if Clinton assumed office for the primary reason of her becoming the USA’s first female president (while an average of two per cent cited each issue). “Clearly Clinton’s ‘unique selling proposition’ is that she would be the first woman president. Nearly one in five Americans mention this historic possibility as a positive, including 22 per cent of women, 27 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 30 per cent of Democrats,” read the Gallup report. The year 1997 saw a great influx of female members into the UK parliament, 101 of whom were from the Labour Party and nicknamed ‘Blair’s Babes’ after the then prime minister, Tony Blair. Even then, these MPs were expected to focus on topics traditionally associated with their gender, such as education and health. When Glenda Jackson MP overstepped this boundary and spoke on defence, a Conservative MP called out: “Stick to what you know, Glenda.” Other comments towards female MPs from male peers were more hostile and condescending – asking with whom they had had to sleep for a promotion, loudly talking about wanting to “roger” them and accusing them of receiving preferential treatment on account of their gender, were some of the indignities related during a study of female MPs by Birkbeck College. “I remember some Conservatives: whenever a Labour woman got up to speak they would take their breasts – their imaginary breasts – in their hands and wiggle them and say ‘melons’ as we spoke,” 18 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global © Tine Harden Creative Commons BY 2.0 The year 1997 saw a great influx of female members into the UK parliament, 101 of whom were from the Labour Party and nicknamed ‘Blair’s Babes’


Global issue 20
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