The future of female leadership
Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones has been named the First Minister and Leader of the Labour Party in Wales. Pushing Health Minister Edwina Hart AM in to second place, and Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney AM to third, Mr Jones will formally be sworn in tomorrow. He is expected to announce his cabinet on Thursday.
Personally, I was disappointed by the results and wanted Hart to be elected as the first female First Minister. She displays strong leadership and is willing to make the tough decisions which impact on all of our lives in Wales. Her continued shake-up of the NHS is just one example of her ability to bring positive change to the people of Wales, alongside her detailed experience as an AM and Cabinet member for 10 years.
As of February 2009, there are currently 126 (19.5%) female MPs compared to 520 male MPs in the House of Commons. In the House of Lords 147 (19.7%) female peers occupy the seats. Within the US Congress 73 (16.8%) female representatives are present in the House of Representatives, with a smaller margin (15 or 15.3%) serving in the Senate. Even though we have female leadership in the form of Harriet Harman MP as Leader of the House (and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party) and Baroness Royall as Leader of the House of Lords, the percentage of female MPs and peers is extremely low contrasted against developing nations such as Rwanda who have at least 50% female parliamentary representation.
Research published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and reported by the BBC on 10/11/09 highlights that the current high level of female representation in the Welsh Assembly (currently 28 members) could fall to below 30% in 2011 due to retirements and changes in party selection procedures. If these findings prove to be true it could be devastating news for current and future females seeking for a career in politics and the public arena.
Whilst the statistics can prove daunting, let us remember that the UK elected its first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The Democratic Party came close in 2008 with former First Lady, Hillary Clinton one of the top candidates. The women of the US Senate pride themselves on their achievements and their ratio of representation has substantially increased over the past decade. It is certainly welcoming to see that 3rd in succession to the US Presidency is the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. It is with her election to the Speakership in 2006 that the glass ceiling was cracked a little further, proving to females in America, and around the world that anything is possible.
Update: This interesting article discussing US female politicians was published on Dec 11th: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/articles/2009/12/11/the_look_of_women_in_politics/