Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where are the women?

Although women make up 51 percent of the world’s population, they hold only 16 percent of parliamentary and congressional seats worldwide.
Their presence in corporate and civic leadership positions remains limited by entrenched gender bias. Women’s civic and political participation is essential to the achievement of open and democratic societies.
As economies across the globe have become more interconnected than ever, women's increased participation in the labor force outside the home has permitted families and countries to adapt and compete in the world economy.
Women are essential to economic development in every sense.
Yet, despite the fact that women constitute approximately half the population, women constitute a much smaller percentage of political representation in democracies across the world.
In response, many countries have adopted laws to guarantee a certain level of representation in their legislatures, either by reserving seats in the legislatures for women, or by requiring parties to present a certain percentage of women candidates.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) statistics, from 1945 to 1995 the percentage of women MPs worldwide has increased four-fold.
There are more women in government today than ever before but their numbers are not enough to change public policy and resource allocation patterns which are instrumental in bringing real benefits to women.
But still political parties often fail to adequately respond to significant barriers encountered by women standing for parliament.
These barriers have been summed up as the “four C’s” of confidence, culture, childcare and cash.
1. Tori Crawford from Switzerland wrote:
Women generally end up in politics as a result of campaining for change, and it tends to be a logical and resulting route to follow. Often they have been 'community' campaigners. Perhaps if girls at school, right from a young age, were encouraged more to talk about leadership opportunities and had powerful role models to inspire them, then maybe we would see more girls actively choose to enter the world of politics at a younger age - and thus rise to the top levels of governments around the world.

Historic milestone predicted - more working women than men

Women may become more than 50 percent of US employment if the recession continues long and severe and this is something that historians will analyse considerably for many years.

In 1950 about one in three women participated in the US labor force. By 1998, nearly three of every five women of working age were in the US labor force. Among women age 16 and over, the US labor force participation rate was 33.9 percent in 1950, compared with 59.8 percent in 1998. As more women are added to the labor force, their share approaches that of men. In 2008, women made up about 48 percent of the US labor force and men 52 percent.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and until this recession, women remained less than 49 percent of the US work force. However, that percentage has now passed 49 percent and may cross the 50 percent threshold for the first time. If the pundits are right that this recession will be long and severe, then women may gain the 0.9 percentage points from November 2008 that would push them past the 50 percent employment milestone and this is something that historians will certainly note for years to come.

Education is key to employment so it is interesting to note that the number of women graduating from Iran's universities is overtaking the number of men, promising a change in the job market and, with it, profound social change. Well over half of university students in Iran are now women. In the applied physics department of Azad University 70% of the graduates are women - a statistic which would make many universities in the West proud.

One profound social change ocurring is that young women who do have careers are now beginning to think twice about getting married. This is a very complex issue in certain cultures like under Iranian law where a woman still needs her husband's permission to go to work.

Working mothers are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran but attitudes are changing among the younger generation of working women, many of whom will no longer accept a husband who does not share the workload at home. Many believe Iranian women who have worked hard to overtake Iranian men will be the ones to bring about social and political change.

Many women say it is preferable for women to work while they are raising a family, however a significant majority think most women are conflicted about raising a family and working. Many women believe that it was due to the women’s movement and continuous campaigning for equal rights that massively helped improve the lives of working women.

But all is still not equal in the boardroom however there is good news for those organisations who maintain a diverse group of directors. Companies with the highest percentage of female corporate officers on average experience, a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest percentage of female corporate officers.

Portrayal of women in the media

Women appear less on TV as spokespersons than their male counterparts. Women are also less likely to make repeat appearances on programs and tended to appear in later segments of programs. Female characters in film and television tend to be younger than males, and this also occurs in relation to news readers.
The number of women in daily newsrooms is around a third of men. Minority women account for less than a fifth of these women. Men still dominate as managers in the media sector, and are usually around 60% of all copy editors, 60% of reporters and 72% of photographers. Only 5% of the 70 or so television stations in the US are owned by women.
Women continue to be significantly underrepresented on television and in the movies. There is wide belief that age is a barrier to opportunities for women actors. Women over 40 years of age are usually cast in only 11% percent of roles while men over 40 secure around 25% percent of roles cast.
While women have been the majority of university journalism majors since the 19070's, a ratio of around 3 to1 male to female bylines is seen.
Women fare somewhat better in pursuing communication jobs. Female journalism and mass communication graduates are more likely to find full-time employment than their male classmates, and have done so since the mid 1980's.
Women fare somewhat better in pursuing communication jobs. Female journalism and mass communication graduates are more likely to find full-time employment than their male classmates, and have done so since the mid 1980's
Almost 15 minutes of every hour of commercial television is adverts and it's almost entirely a view of the world as seen and portrayed by men.
Whoever controls assignments, whoever decides how a story is going to be covered, whoever decides what placement that story gets in a newspaper or over the airwaves, is not only shaping the content of news, but is deciding what readers and listeners know and how they know it. Media leaders are not just industry leaders, they have the power to shape society’s attitudes.
Media content will never be reflective of the communities it serves unless the gender and racial composition of newsrooms, executive suites and boardrooms reflect that of the public. Women are half of the population but they are only a blip on the radar in upper echelons of media companies where news priorities are set. Ensuring women are accessing decision-making jobs in media is not just a question of equity but it is a question of democracy. What's your opinion?
This article has 3 responses.
1. Jana Harmon from Canada wrote:
I know that in the rise to recognize women and men as equal entities, this brings greater acceptance and r4ecognition of balance, and this is essential for democracy. Leadership should be all about the benefit to all. Unfortunately the media more often cover negative subjects regarding women, war and so forth as that makes news. As a women in the acting and performing arts arena, I would like to see women addressed more positively in the media. More women should certainly be involved in what constitutes news and the decisions about media coverage.
2. Jean Rogers Actress Vice President Equity (UK) from UK wrote:
LET'S CHANGE THINGS AND HAVE EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN TV and FILM. Over 3000 people have now signed a petition, calling for urgent action by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to address the imbalance. Over half the viewing public is female, yet in TV drama for every female character, there are two male characters (35.3% female roles to 63.5% male roles). Whilst leading parts are frequently played by male actors over 45, women in this age group start to disappear from our screens. The message this sends to viewers is distorted and distorting. We call on all the major UK television channels to take action to correct this imbalance. Please sign the Petition at
3. Rachel Maclean from Canada wrote:
As a woman who is part of the media, I would like to reiterate the fact that women are under represented in today's newsrooms, but at my university the journalism program was overwhelmingly female. I very much find that men hold the positions of power in media as they are the ones that have worked up the ladder in a industry that has been very male dominated. But one anecdote of hope is at my current office all the reporters are women, as well as all of our advertising staff. So we are coming! Watch out.

Women and wealth

Do women put enough effort into managing their money? Demographic factors such as education, household income, age and marital status influence how a woman manages her money.
Today’s world is changing at a startling pace. Political and economic transformations seem to be occurring everywhere as countries convert from command to demand economies, dictatorships move toward democracy, and monarchies build new civil institutions. These changes have created economic opportunities for women who want to own and operate businesses
Today, women in advanced market economies own more than 25% of all businesses and women-owned businesses in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America are growing rapidly
In some regions of the world, transformation to a market economy threatens to sharpen gender inequality. Some of changes are simply the legacy of a gender imbalance that existed prior to political and economic reforms
Women’s business associations play a vital role in identifying appropriate and/or emerging sectors where entrepreneurs can succeed. The areas that are likely to take off quickly during a nation’s market revitalization public relations, transport, delivery, producing and marketing consumer goods, commercial banking, financial services insurance, and other service-related industries. In this process, women business owners are innovators, job creators and providers of economic security.
As owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) women can also supply multinational companies with ideas inventions, technology, raw materials, supplies, components, and business services.
Over 700 women’s business organizations are registered in the US alone, representing over 8 million women-owned businesses. A vital link to economic decision-making processes, these associations have made their members’ visions and priorities a part of the national political and economic agenda. Around the globe many more organizations are contributing in similar ways.
With regard to the access of finacne, setting up microenterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises in both formal and informal economic sectors is one way to achieve sustainable socio-economic development and eliminate poverty. Women tend to seek small personal loans because they tend to start small firms.

Monday, February 23, 2009


international woman day
Thousands of women and supportersmarch
in Washington, D.C on IWD

international woman day

Peking Opera artists celebrateIWD
in Beijing, China

international woman day

Women call for equality at
IWD march in Salvador, Brazil

international woman day

Global activity continuesevery
where on IWD ...

international woman day
Women gather in Guinea, Africa
(someof these women are no longer with us)

international woman day

Australian Emergency Servicevolunteers
at IWD event

international woman day
Women in IWD rally from factoriesand
groups in Dhaka, Bangladesh

international woman day
IWD US in the Whitehousewith
Colin Powell

international woman day
Women's IWD Rally in Iran

international woman day
IWD silent protest in Tapei, Asia

international womans day
Arab women at Amnesty
International IWD Rally

international womans day
Collage of women's global IWD activity

How will women fare under Obama?

Barack Obama has stacked competent women around him at all levels of the administration, not just at the top level but also at the second and third layers.

Three of the fifteen members in his Cabinet are women, or not quite 20%. Obama is used to having strong women around him. Most of these positions are in the national security and economic issues arenas so are key positions.

- Hillary Rodham-Clinton, Secretary of State
- Hilda Solis, Secretary-Designate, Department of Labor
- Janet Napolitani, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

And there are further powerful women in critical roles:

- Christina Romer, Chair, Council of Economic Advisors
- Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations
- Lisa Jackson, Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency

So exactly what can women expect from the Obama Administration. What will the US Gender Agenda really look like? Well the Obama Adminstration has set a clear agenda for women and it is as follows.


- Fixing the Nation's Health Care System
- Empowering women to prevent HIV/AIDS
- Supporting research into women's health
- Fighting Cancer
- Reducing health risks due to mercury pollution
- Supporting stem cell research

Reproductive choice:

- Supporting a woman's right to choose
- Preventing unintended pregnancy

Preventing violence against women:

- Reducing domestic violence and strengthening domestic violence laws
- Fighting gender violence abroad

Economic issues:

-Fighting for pay equity and encouraging retirement saving
- Expanding paid sick days
- Investing in women-owned small businesses -
-Protecting social security

National security:

- Caring for women veterans


- Renewing efforts to tackle underlying problems causing poverty
- Raising the minimum wage and helping low-income workers


- Protecting title tax
- Expanding early childhood education and improving schools
- Making college more affordable

Does Obama lead towards a feminist agenda?

Ms Magazine features Barack Obama as a Super Feminist, pictured tearing off his superman shirt saying "This is what a feminist looks like".There are high expectations amongst feminists as to how much gender will influence the policy agenda.Feminists believe that previously under the Bush administration certain legislation would not have been signed so was not put forward.Many feminists are hopeful that more pro-feminist legislation will now get through the Senate.Feminists believe that the Obama Administration is listening to women and asking the right kind of questions for women. Equal Pay, Children's Health and various

Domestic legislation will be watched closely.Michelle's success as the First Lady is also seen as an incredible moment for women around the world as many believe she represents the struggles of many mothers and working women.

Obama signs workforce anti-discrimination law

President Obama signed his first bill into law handing his labor and women's rights backers a victory by reversing a 2007 US Supreme Court decision that made it harder to sue for pay discrimination. On average, US women are paid 23% less than men while minority women receive even less

Will Obama have the time for a gender agenda?

But how much time will Obama really have to focus on gender issues with so many other pressing issues? Will awareness of gender issues penetrate and integrate with mainstream policy? Christina Roma, one of the key architects of Obama's Economic Stimulus Package was very responsive to feminist concerns that the package might create millions of jobs but that these jobs might only be for "burly men in construction building bridges and roads" and this would have a consequence for women. Roma outlined the focus also on healthcare, education and the retail trade where women are disproportionately a large factor of the workforce so this suggests.


International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
in 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women's Day events. 1911 also saw women's 'Bread and Roses' campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen's Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women's solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
1918 - 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women's rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as 'International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
2000 and beyond
IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.