Powerhouse Women

October 16, 2008

What do Angela Merkel, Condoleezza Rice, Cristina Fernandez, Yulia Tymoshenko, Sonia Gandhi, Michelle Bachelet, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton have in common? Forbes just named them some of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and they all hold a powerful political office. When I read articles like this, I become my five-year-old self, giddy with joy and the twinkle of admiration in my eye. I see power and beauty in these women that more women around the world are hungering for.

The The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance states, “In 2007, the rate of female representation at national level stands at merely 18 per cent globally.” Yet the number of women holding political offices is on the rise around the world. In September 2008 Rwandan women made their mark in the history books when Rwandan women secured 56 percent of the parliamentary seats. This new parliament will be the world’s first in history to have women in the majority.

After being ravaged by genocide in 1994, the Rwandans decided to revamp their constitution to include a quota of 30 percent for women in parliament. This quota system helped Rwanda to achieve this historic landmark.

However, Rwanda is not the only country to use a quota system to improve parity among its representatives. Uganda, Argentina, India, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are just a few examples.

What does this all mean? Do you think quota systems are effective mechanisms to get women equal representation in the political system? These policies have ensured that women are becoming the face of politics and that they are shaping our future. Women are powerful, and the world is taking notice.

AAUW has long been active in breaking through barriers for women to get involved in politics. Read more about our Woman to Woman Voter Turnout Campaign and Campaign College. For more information on women, power, and politics check out the NOW on PBS video on “Women, Power, and Politics,” the Pew study on gender leadership, and the the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. To run for office yourself, check out the Women’s Campaign Forum’s She Should Run, the White House Project’s Go Run Training, and Running Start.

Written by Chandra Palmer.

Avatar By:   |   October 16, 2008


  1. Avatar Chandra Palmer says:

    If anyone is interested in learning more about the women in Rwanda, the Washington Post has just released a special report on how women are running the show in Rwanda and not just politically but economically and in every aspect of development.

    Check out the report:

  2. Avatar Dorothy McBride says:

    Quotas to increase women’s representation have been adopted primarily in countries where the political parties determine the slate of candidates for parliament. In the U.S. with the primary system, the quota would be very difficult to put in place. Any legal requirement for a quota based on race or sex would be on its face a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

    In the US, there are other activities that would be more effective in promoting women into public office. Both political parties have programs. There are organizations and universities that train women to run for office. Studies have shown that overall women are as able as men in raising money. The last barrier is discrimination that continues among party officials and voters.

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