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Closing the Political Gender Gap

Efforts to improve female representation in politics have often focused on quotas and reserved shares. What is really needed is a nuanced approach that tackles the underlying, interconnected barriers that women face in getting nominated for elected office and conducting successful campaigns.

WASHINGTON, DC – A record number of American women are running for elected office in 2018, many of them motivated by outrage over US President Donald Trump’s policies and attitudes. But running is not winning, and outrage alone cannot produce the kind of steady progress needed to achieve political equality. To produce a substantial increase in the number of women in Congress, changes that run deeper than the current electoral “pink wave” will be needed.

With only 19.3% female representation in the House of Representatives and 23% in the Senate, the United States currently ranks 103rd in the world in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures. To improve its record, the US should look to countries with greater gender parity.

At the top of that list is Rwanda, where women make up 61.3% of the lower house and 38.5% of the upper house. In 2003, the country adopted a new constitution that reserves 30% of parliamentary seats for women and requires political parties to ensure that women hold at least 30% of elected internal positions. France is one of 49 other countries that also have statutory quotas or reserved seats for women.

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