Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another woman like Thatcher in the UK?

According to a Wikipedia article, about a quarter of the world's countries have had female heads of government. Amelia Gentleman, writing in The New York Times, doesn't think it's likely that another woman will lead Britain any time soon. Do your students agree with her assessment? What about the other countries they are studying?

Weak Odds for Women in Britain
Theresa May
Could the next British prime minister be a woman? A surge of rumors in Parliament means it looks marginally more plausible this week than it did last week. Theresa May, the home secretary, has come under the spotlight for apparently harboring leadership ambitions, and supporters have described her as “Britain’s answer to Angela Merkel,” the German chancellor…

[A]s the attention of political correspondents drifts to different intrigues, the broader backdrop of British politics suggests the likelihood of having a woman lead Britain again anytime soon is remarkably slim.

Lady Thatcher
“Britain is a country ruled largely by men,” the Center for Women and Democracy, a nonprofit group based in Leeds, England, said in a new report on the representation of women in politics and public decision-making in Britain. The conclusion is no great surprise.

The detailed breakdown of the gender divide in positions of power set out in the report, called “Sex and Power 2013,” makes sobering reading for anyone hopeful that some kind of parity might soon be within reach. Each statistic points to a new area where extensive work is required: About 14 percent of university vice chancellors are women, as are less than 16 percent of high court judges.

These figures reflect what many Britons broadly know about the predominance of men in high-powered positions, but they still have the capacity to startle when set down so baldly.

Less than 23 percent of all members of Parliament and 17.4 percent of the cabinet are women. The proportion of female members of Parliament has increased 3.9 percent since 2000, while the percentage of women in the cabinet has decreased 4.3 percent.

In Parliament, 32 percent of the Labour members are women, as are 16 percent of Conservatives and 12 percent of Liberal Democrats. Britain is lagging behind most of the rest of Europe and is dropping down the global league table in terms of the proportion of female legislators, currently 60th of 190 countries, falling from 33rd in May 2001…

The full-time and part-time gender pay gap stands around 20 percent, and a National Management Salary Survey, conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, revealed a lifetime pay gap of more than £420,000, or $625,000, between female and male executives.

Even recent attempts to celebrate the achievements of British women have caused profound feminist gloom in some quarters. The BBC Radio 4’s daily Woman’s Hour broadcast — a long-running national institution — last month compiled a list of the 100 most powerful women in Britain, and caused dismay by listing the Queen in first place, and two other women who have broadly inherited power from their fathers — Ana Botín, chief executive of Santander, the Spanish bank, at No. 3 and the media mogul Elisabeth Murdoch at No. 5 — in the top five…

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