Monday 23 October 2017

Poll reveals we've got fewer female politicians than Islamic nations

World rankings of women in politics
World rankings of women in politics
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

IRELAND is at the lower end in a world-ranking of women politicians – with even Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates having a greater percentage of female parliamentarians than the current Dail.

Ireland ranks 92nd among 189 democracies around the world, with just 26 women elected to 166 Dail seats in the last election.

Women represent just 15.7pc of the lower house and 19 out of 60 Seanad seats, or 31.7pc.

By comparison, Saudi Arabia, which ranks 76th on the list compiled by the Inter Parliamentary Union in February, had 30 women elected to 151 lower house seats, representing 19.9pc of parliamentarians there. The United Arab Emirates has seven women elected to 40 seats representing 17.5pc.

Afghanistan, which ranks 42nd on the list, has 69 women elected to 249 seats in its lower house, representing 27.7pc and 28 out of 102 upper house seats, representing 27.5pc.

Interestingly, Rwanda, which has built itself up from the ashes of the 1994 genocide, tops the list of women politicians with 64pc of seats, while the Federated States of Micronesia in Oceania is at the bottom of the list with no female politicians.

But Ireland isn't alone among Western democracies for poor figures. The USA ranks 84th, with just 79 women elected to 432 seats or 18.3pc of the population, while the UK ranks 65th with 147 out of 650 Commons seats occupied by women at 22.6pc and 182 out of 779 Lords seats, representing 23.4pc.

And while the number of female candidates running in this month's local and European elections here is up slightly over the last election, they are still in the minority.

Some 314 female candidates ran in the 2009 local elections, accounting for just 17.2pc of the total number of candidates.


As of Friday afternoon, 441 female candidates were officially declared to run in the May 23 local elections to contest 2,038 seats – or 21.6pc of the total candidates.

NUI Maynooth geography professor, Adrian Kavanagh, who compiled a list of the candidates, said geography also played a part in the decision of women to contest the elections, with more females running in urban areas than rural areas. He said the so-called 'old boys network' was still a feature in which voters – especially in smaller constituencies – tended to vote in incumbents, which were predominantly men.

Women politicians with children tended to find the job daunting because they were not only effectively working 24/7 as a politician, they were also taking care of their families; whereas male politicians traditionally had a wife at home to manage family affairs, he said.

Money and networking were also necessary ingredients for candidates, which could be a hurdle for female candidates, added NUI political scientist Claire McGing.

Irish Independent

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