A Different Way

Paris’s fine for having too many women as senior officials reminds the world of gender parity problems


The number of women politicians around the world has skyrocketed in the last decade, but women are still significantly underrepresented. 

Mariel Padilla

Originally published by The 19th

The city of Paris was fined 90,000 euros — more than $100,000 — for having too many female senior officials in 2018. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor, called the decision “absurd” this week and promised to personally deliver the check to the Ministry of Public Service along with other women in her administration. 

green and white concrete building
Photo by Tove Liu on Pexels.com

“I am happy to announce that we have been fined,” Hidalgo, a member of the Socialist party who was elected in 2014 as Paris’ first female mayor, told the city council on Tuesday. 

In 2018, there were 11 women and five men appointed to city management positions, violating a rule  — that was changed in 2019, according to Le Monde — that at least 40 percent of government positions should go to both men and women. 

The number of women politicians across the world has skyrocketed in the last decade, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks gender parity in global politics. Since the end of World War II, 64 of the 193 countries surveyed have elected a female head of state with the majority of women rising to the highest office in the 2000s, according to the council’s Women’s Power Index. More women are running for office and winning than ever before. 

Rachel Vogelstein, the council’s director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, said laws like the one in France were created to rectify a historic imbalance in government representation. Many countries have implemented quota or target systems, requiring a certain number of female lawmakers, she said.

“These laws have had a pretty dramatic effect, particularly for democracy,” Vogelstein said. “The four countries that have reached gender parity in their national legislatures — Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia and the United Arab Emirates — have done so partially because of quotas.” 

It took about two and a half decades to go from 11 percent female representation to 24 percent in national legislatures globally, but Vogelstein said she hopes we won’t have to wait another 25 years for equality.

Studies show that women leaders promote bipartisanship, equality and stability. Women in the U.S. Senate collaborate across party lines more frequently and pass more legislation than their male counterparts, one study found. Female lawmakers have also proven to support education and health policies, pass legislation that advances gender equality, and decrease the risk of civil war and state-perpetrated human rights abuses.

As the world faces a pandemic that has infected more than 70 million people and killed more than 1.6 million, Vogelstein noted that women-led nations seemed to do a better job keeping the virus contained early on.

“The question is not ‘why is female representation in leadership important?,’ but ‘what reason is there to justify women’s exclusion and underrepresentation when we have evidence of their value as leaders?’” Vogelstein said.

Despite the increase in female leadership, women are still significantly underrepresented in politics. There are currently only 22 countries with a woman leader; only 11 countries have at least 50 percent female representation in their national cabinets; and only four countries have at least 50 percent female representation in their national legislatures, according to the council’s most recent data.

When it comes to political gender equality, France ranks in 10th place. The United States ranks 128th, just behind Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. According to the council, the United States has a political parity score — an aggregate measure of women in government — of 17. (The country would need all levels of government to achieve gender parity to receive a score of 100.) Currently, about 24 percent of the 535 congressional seats are filled by women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. And across state and local levels, women represent less than 30 percent of elected officials.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he plans to expand the racial and ideological diversity in his administration. At a press conference on December 4, Biden promised he would deliver the “single most diverse Cabinet based on race, color, based on gender that’s ever existed in the United States of America.” 

With the reported nomination of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy, Biden’s Cabinet is on track to be the first in American history to include at least as many women as men and also break the record for the most women to serve in the 25 current Cabinet-level roles. 

So far, Biden has nominated seven women: Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations; Katherine Tai as trade representative, who would be the first Asian American and woman of color in the role; Susan Rice as the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Janet Yellen as the first female Treasury secretary; Avril Haines as the first female director of national intelligence; Marcia Fudge as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, who would be the first woman of color and South Asian American to hold this position.

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