Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Together with the Diplomatic Academy

During this conference held virtually Dr Melanie Sully gave a presentation. She referred to the ample data on political representation of women on the www.eige.europa.eu site showing average female representation of women in the Lower House of Parliaments in EU Member States to be 32.7% with Sweden at just under 50% and Hungary with 12.6% (Austria 39.3%) (Last Quarter 2020). Denmark and Germany have a female head of government. As to government ministers the average in EU Member States is 32% with Belgium, France, Sweden and Sweden over 50% and Malta, Poland, Greece and Lithuania under 10%. Austria government minister female representation 53.3%.

Dr Sully stressed that Political Parties are the gatekeepers to increased female representation in political decision-making to achieve commitments signed up to in the OSCE, Council of Europe, UN and national constitutions.

On Quotas she recalled that for some countries formerly in the Communist sphere this word can arouse negative connotations. In some EU countries such as France quotas are in the Constitution (also see www.odihr.pl and  www.osce.org for more). But quotas need sanctions to work. These can be a financial loss but as France originally showed the wealthier parties will pay a fine. This fine is now stiffer to avoid this. There can be financial incentives as in Croatia or the election list could be rejected by the officials as in Slovenia. A quota on the list however is not much use if women are in unelectable positions so ranking is important. Some countries have quotas in electoral laws such as Belgium, Spain, Greece whilst others have merely commitments made by political parties as in Austria.

Increasing female representation in politics should be accompanied by greater quality access to power centres such as in the government. The great offices of state are the Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry and often women are few and far between in these positions.

Codes of Conduct can help to combat discrimination, harassment, sexism and bullying eg in parliaments which could do more to achieve gender equality (see work by the OSCE/ODIHR).

Barriers to more women in politics cover the four Cs (Fawcett Society) Culture, Childcare, Cash and Confidence.

The Media has a big role to play - eg are there all male press conferences, photos in papers or all male panels at events. How can this be portrayed in the media?

The Austrian Gemeindebund www.gemeindebund.at now has extensive information on the 2000 plus towns in Austria and shows that there are very few women mayors. Often it is difficult to find enough candidates to stand for this job and the political culture in rural communities is not always conducive to females in the Town Hall parish politics.

Women should support each other across political parties in parliaments and politics to increase representation and gain influence in parties to campaign for more funding to help women to stand for office.