Women comprise the majority of world’s population, are heads of households, have outpaced their male peers in educational attainment and contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of their families, communities, and countries.
Yet, for all of these advances, women in leadership position are still a minority. According to the latest estimates, women comprise just 20.2 percent of corporate board members of Fortune 500 companies, representing a slight increase over previous years. And just 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by female CEOs. In terms of political leadership, the United Nations estimates that women hold just 22 percent of parliament seats globally. Currently, there are 10 female heads of state and 14 heads of government among the 195 UN member states. Finally, women hold only 17 percent of posts globally at the ministerial level, mainly in the education and health sectors.
Much has been written about how women could overcome the myriad of obstacles that stand in their way to personal and professional success. Whether it’s to take a seat at the table, find a mentor, or a sponsor and lean-in, these techniques fall short of naming the real reason women are shut out of professional opportunities in many societies.
The simple answer is that women must work within the confines of rules and regulations that were institutionalized without their input. When women have agency in their personal and professional lives, they have the ability to change norms, rules and regulations and to fully participate in decision-making processes in the government, public and private sectors.
Inclusive and participatory decision-making is at the heart of democratic governance and yields better social, political and economic outcomes. Economic empowerment is one of the most important means of attaining global gender parity and should be a central point of discussion. When women become breadwinners, they have real decision-making power within their families and communities. Women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the workforce are avenues for their political participation and ability to influence how rules are made and laws passed.