The European Parliament advocates gender equality, but women continue to be under-represented in politics and public life at local, national and European level according to recent figures.
Over the years, the percentage of women elected to the European Parliament has increased. Between 1952 and 1979, the year of the first elections by direct universal suffrage, only 31 women were elected MEPs. In the first directly elected European Parliament, women had a representation of 15.2 %.
But still, women’s representation in the European Parliament is higher than the world average for national parliaments and higher than the EU average for national parliaments. With the proportion of women MEPs at 36.1% in the fourth year of its eighth term, the European Parliament has a level of female representation almost 12,5 points above the world average for national parliaments, which is currently 23.6%. Finland, Ireland, and Croatia have more female MEPs than male MEPs, and Malta, Latvia and Sweden have equal numbers of female and male MEPs. The percentage of women in the European Parliament is now higher than that in Member States’ national parliaments, with the exceptions of Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal.
The under-representation of women in politics is a universal phenomenon like few others. Faced with the awareness of this unfair inequality, more than a hundred countries from different parts of the world have adopted a more proactive stance in recent decades, resorting to various positive action measures in order to solve this social problem more quickly and effectively.
Not only in Europe but all over the world, proactive action has been taken with the appointment of women to political positions:
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced on 27 January 2022 that he will appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States (the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America), the first person with such characteristics to hold a post on the court. The choice will be made before the end of February, according to the Democrat.
Chile’s President-elect Gabriel Boric announced on 21 January 2022 the names of the ministers who will make up his cabinet from 11 March, when he takes office. There are 24 new ministers, 14 of whom are women. In his speech, Boric spoke of political plurality in his government and dialogue with all sectors.
At this stage we can already state that measures such as the “voluntary party quotas” and the “Law of Parity”, adopted by 23 of the 28 countries of the European Union, including Portugal (Organic Law no. 3/2006 of 21 August, implemented in the 2009 electoral cycle and already documented several times), were a major step forward in promoting gender equality in politics, and have undoubtedly contributed to increasing the number of women in this context.
However, in politics, women remain a minority, and while these and other measures have certainly been beneficial, in terms of the descriptive representation of women in politics, it is still too early to generate changes in terms of their more substantive representation in the context of power and decision-making.