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Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in positions of Power and decision-making

Only 23 % of COMESA parliamentarians and less than 20% of COMESA Ministers are women. Currently there is one woman in the highest echelons of power in the COMESA region. This gives credence to the fact that inequality between women and men is more visible in power and decision-making areas. Politics is an area where women continue to be highly under-represented all around the world. In most communities around the world, women hold only a minority of decision-making positions in both public and private institutions. Where women are appointed as Ministers it is usually in portfolios related to social issues such as Education, Health, Community Development and Youth and Child development.

Currently, only twenty per cent of the members of lower or single houses of parliament worldwide are women. This is due to a few underlying but deep rooted factors. Women are rarely leaders of major political parties, which are instrumental in forming future political leaders and in supporting them throughout the election process. Gender norms and expectations also drastically reduce the pool of female candidates for selection as electoral representatives, and contribute to the many obstacles that women face during the electoral process.  Gender stereotyping  plays a role in the under representation of women in true positions of power as women are viewed as being too nice, too caring and too friendly to lead unlike their male counterparts who are considered to be ‘strong and assertive’.

Between 2012 and 2015, female representation in ministerial portfolios in the region has increased marginally. The country with the least representation is Libya with only 3.6% of national parliamentarians being women, as well as Djibouti and Democratic Republic of Congo with 5.3 % and 8.1% respectively. Rwanda (35.5.%) continues to hold poll position in the region for female Ministers followed by Burundi (34.8%), Uganda and Swaziland with 29.6% and 26.3% respectively.

The use by some countries of gender quotas has improved women’s chances of being elected. Yet, once in office, few women reach the higher echelons of parliamentary hierarchies. Women are also underrepresented among senior-level civil servants, and seldom represent their governments at the international level. Women’s representation among corporate managers, legislators and senior officials remains low, with only about half of countries having shares of women in managerial positions of 30 per cent  or more, and none reaching or surpassing parity. The gender compositions of executive boards of private companies are nowhere near parity—meaning that the “glass ceiling” remains a reality for the vast majority of the world’s women. Source: Worlds Women 2015 UN Report

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