Do women make political parties more successful?



Do women make political parties more successful?


The ideology and internal organization of political parties affect how different societal needs, interests and social demands are represented. Some parties have been great advocates of gender equality and promoting women in their candidate lists through either quotas or alternation rules. However, other political parties choose to ignore any regulations on achieving gender equality and instead opt to pay the fines that come from doing so or go about in ways so as to actively dismiss or neglect their female members.

The causality between the promotion of women’s participation and a party’s electoral success has not been properly documented. In this discussion we are looking for cases in which political parties have increased their support base and gained electoral votes after adopting reforms to promote women’s empowerment

Q1. Do you know of a particular political party that gained greater public support following the implementation of affirmative action measures?

Q2. Do you believe that there is a connection between the promotion of women’s participation and a political party’s electoral success?

Q3. What can political parties do to increase women’s political participation within their own structures and in the political arena in general?

To learn more about legal regulations and internal voluntary party regulations adopted by parties to create a gender equality framework, we invite you to  read the Consolidated iKNOW Politics’ Expert Responses on “Best Practices used by Political Parties to Promote Women in Politics”  (2012) and the  Guidebook “Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties” (UNDP-NDI, 2012),  identifying a range of actions that political parties  can take to support women’s participation. 

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Carmen Alanis's picture

This year, in Mexico, the Constitution was amended to guarantee gender parity (50% from each gender) for legislative, state and local candidatures. Political parties have agreed to exceed the 40% quota. The electoral justice has played a decisive role in this process to increase the political participation space of women. Indeed, it is through the Federal Electoral Tribunal resolutions that it could ensure that political parties comply with the quota required by law, thus increasing the participation of women in public service. For example, through court decisions, it was possible to remove an exception to the previous quota stipulating that when the candidatures were the result of democratic processes, it was not necessary to reach the 40% quota. The Electoral Court noted that the exemption was unconstitutional because it did not guarantee gender equality. This resolution allowed in the current federal legislature a considerable increase in the number of women in both houses. The Chamber of Deputies has 37.5% of women and the Senate has 32%. For the first time in the history of Mexico, the 30% threshold has been crossed.

pablo vicente's picture

To be honest, we're not sure this is the case. In our case, we have 155 municipalities, only 12 are headed by women, out of 190 provincial governments, only 40 are led by women, and we have only three women ministers out of a total of 21. This is an alarming situation. Of a total of 32 seats in the Senate, only four are occupied by women. Of a total of 1,149 councilors, 383 are women, or 33 percent.
The reality is that we need to work with women, both within politics and in economic and social sectors because no society in the world can ignore 50 percent of its population.

Paloma Román Marugán's picture

Gender mainstreaming in political and programmatic discourse of political parties is often slow and not enough in most cases. There will always be people who support women, but these people are a minority, electoral success is mainly confined to the Left parties.
Following the above argument, I think that overall there is no clear correlation between promoting women's participation and election results.
Political parties are implementing affirmative action measures to encourage women's participation within their internal structures through the establishment of quotas for leadership roles or lists of alternate position (woman / man) for internal elections processes. We see some progress especially within left parties; through ideologies, even if you have to convince the parties that it is necessary to implement affirmative action measures to change the situation.

iKNOW Politics's picture

In Colombia, efforts have been made at the legislative level to ensure women’s presence within the political sphere, through Act no.581 of 2000, which guarantees the adequate and effective participation of women in decision-making processes within the different governmental branches and organs, and through the recent Act no. 1475 of 2011, adopted in view of the October elections this year, which stipulated that at least 30% of candidates on the electoral lists should be women.

It will still take some time before these legislative efforts function as a gender balancing factor in the country, managing to transform the reality of inequality and lack of access of women to decision making and power positions. In this regard, it appears that Act no.581 of 2000 is still always misinterpreted, being applied only in ministerial offices and municipalities, leaving aside other levels of decision making. However, recent studies on the evaluation of the implementation of this Act show that although there are still some gaps in its implementation, it is important to ensure that more women have access to decision-making positions.

As to the application of Act 1475 in the October elections of 2011, research conducted shows that the increased presence of women in the lists of candidates does not necessarily lead to them filling more positions; on the contrary their presence has decreased. In Medellin, for example, in the case of the municipality, compared to 2007-2011 and 2012-2015, the number of women in political parties’ lists has increased by 132% in accordance with the law; And contradictorily, there is only one woman within the municipality (out of 21 people); in local administrative councils, women represent only 37% (54 out of 147 people); and at the regional level, in the Departmental Assembly, women account for just only 7.6% (2 out of 26 women in the Assembly). This extends to the national level and confirms the theory that the more we advance in terms of power ,the weaker the female representation.


Comment sent in Spanish by Fundación de la mano contigo.

iKNOW Politics's picture

In my opinion, what is happening today in Peru is the opportunistic recruitment of women by political parties, which indicates that sexism still exists. In general, they do it to meet the quota, but what is worse is that women's participation is confined to the positions least likely to win, with some exceptions. However, women’s participation is increasing and I think it will be their own leadership skills that will enable them to position themselves within political parties. Pro electoral movements have gained more space in recent years.

Comment sent in Spanish by Blanco.

iKNOW Politics's picture

African history provides evidence of women’s participation in the workforce. It is imperative to know that where men fail, women succeed and the dignity of a person involves the right to take an active part in public life and personally contribute to common good.


Equal participation in decision-making is not a question of justice and democracy, but a necessary condition for women's interests to be taken into account.


Las! The province of Katanga, one of eleven provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, rich in natural resources, has 50.3% of the female population, i.e. 4,843,532. Despite this statistic, we see that there is low female representation in decision-making bodies at different levels. The province of Katanga has 12 ministers; but there is only one female minister; the provincial parliament of Katanga, out of 102 deputies, there are 15 women. For the entire province, there is only one female mayor, 2 female deputy mayors, a district commissioner and a female deputy commissioner. Out of 52 Departments, 2 Departments are headed by women. However, there are no women with a high position in the security services. As for political parties, two women are to be encouraged as they are at the head of their political parties.


When observing Law No. 11/003 of 25 June 2011 amending Law No. 06/006 of 9 March 2006 on the organization of presidential, legislative, provincial, urban, municipal and local elections in Article 13, paragraph 3 and 4, we note that "... each list is established taking into account the equal representation of men-women and the promotion of people living with a disability; However, the non-implementation of gender parity and the absence of people living with a disability do not render a list inadmissible". By understanding this law, we can conclude that it is advantageous to women; but paragraph 4 challenges paragraph 3. The same applies to Article 448 and Article 450 of the Family Code.


Section 448 states that a woman must obtain permission from her husband for all legal acts which she undertakes in person. 

Regarding this law, we recommend that political authorities should be more actively involved in order to implement the commitments already  taken at the international, regional and national levels for the full empowerment of women; we also recommend the promotion of girls’ education so that there are more women that can occupy senior positions;


We also want to say that women leaders, men and organizations engaged in gender equality and women’s empowerment should be mobilized to build other women’s capacity and push them to participate in the country's politics.


The DRC parliament and senate should act as regulators and monitor compliance with gender balance in decision-making positions.

Similarly, Civil Society Organizations should continue to advocate with policy makers for women’s integration in decision making positions at all levels to be better taken into account;

Women who hold senior positions, especially elected officials and members of the government should be held accountable to their fellows and their ambassadors.



Women within decision making spheres, other women leaders and women's organizations have to come together and avoid any form of division in order to pursue a common struggle which is that of women’s empowerment.

Comment sent in French by Clémentine TSHIBOLA

Amina Alrasheed Nayel A Professor's picture

I read through the valuable contribution in the discussion of this important subject, I agree that there are still more interventions and challenges ahead. However, it is essential to stress the importance of women's presence in politics, as minor as it may look, it is still viable for more sound changes.

the quota system is not the complete answer, nonetheless it is an important strategy that help women acquiring places in politics. Women presence in general is not without significance or effect, on the contrary it help in changing old perceptions and stigmas drawn on women.


The picture might not be as bright as we expected, but looking and analyzing the situation may reflect and bring about more positive trends and views, there are many (set backs) although I don't want to use the word as it doesn’t capture complete reality, still women presence count as positive. The case of Bahrain elections, few women were in, around 6 of them, but this does not hide the fact that all entered with conventional competition with all other candidates, without utilizing any actions affirmative or otherwise to secure their presence, they did manage to get the seats though. This in my opinion is a step forward, and a proof that women can still excel in a conservative arena, with the hope that the implementation of the quota system may bring further accomplishment.

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