The past couple of years have marked monumental milestones for women pursuing leadership positions. It was the first time in American history a woman was nominated for presidency by a major party. While Hillary Clinton narrowly missed that opportunity, Ethiopia, Estonia and Taiwan elected their first female presidents and major cities, such as Tokyo and Rome, elected their first female mayors. Yet despite these advancements, women still lack presence in executive positions. This begs the question: how does the glass ceiling remain undamaged under the heavy pressure of women fighting against it?
When news broke that Clinton was running for president, feminists worldwide celebrated. It appeared as if one of the most powerful nations was gaining a female leader. Despite her loss, Clinton became an icon for female empowerment. She put herself out there and risked the stigma, not only for herself, but to empower all other women who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
The question of ‘how Clinton lost the election’ became a hot topic of debate. With her background rooted in Politics it was evident that she was, politically speaking, the stronger candidate. So, does America fear a female leader?
There have been countless numbers of articles written on how men are better suited for executive positions. Looking at the obvious sexism that manages to integrate itself into the workplace, some believe women are not fit for leadership positions because they are too emotional and may wreak havoc if they were in charge. While others think women should take care of the family, making it difficult to climb the job ladder simultaneously.
The World Economic Forum found that the United States ranked low – 73rd out of 143 countries – on the Global Gender Gap Report in 2016 and will continue to fall. Now, this is not because the U.S.’s track record of electing women is getting worse, rather other countries are getting significantly better. Today there are approximately 60 members in the Council of Women and World leaders. All of which are current, or former, elected heads of state. Women in other countries are able to hold leadership positions and still have a personal life.
So why is the glass ceiling not as apparent in other regions in the world in the same way that it is in America? We can better understand this question if we look at how women are represented in leadership positions in other regions in the world, such as Ethiopia and the UAE.
As mentioned earlier Ethiopia elected their first female president on Oct. 25. The importance of this moment is incomparable. Ethiopia is a country that tends to top the gender inequality index and rank low in terms of gender representation, said Sehin Teferra, co-founder of the feminist Setaweet movement. Teferra said that by encouraging the election of a female president, the government is making a powerful statement to the world about the country’s efforts to maximize female intelligence.
The UAE prides itself on diversifying the workplace and placing more women in leadership positions, which is essential for levelling opportunities between women and men. In the UAE, it is mandatory for all public and private sectors to feature a woman on their board of directors and women are becoming prominent figures in typically male dominated fields such as engineering and politics. This is more forward thinking than many other countries, including the U.S.
The UAE’s current cabinet is made up of 32 members, with women filling 9 positions. This means female ministers make up approximately 30 percent of the cabinet. One of which includes the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Shamma Al Mazrui, who has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s youngest cabinet minister.
Women worldwide will continue to chip away at the glass ceiling every day in hopes of it eventually shattering. But this process will not be short. Rather, it will probably take decades before women are given the same professional opportunities and despite our history, all we can hope for is that our future is brighter.
1. Anne-Birgitte Alberctsen. 2017. If we truly want to change the world, we need more female leaders. World Economic Forum.
2. Laura Liswood. 2016. Why didn’t the United States elect a female president? World Economic Forum.
3. Paul Schemm. (2018). Ethiopia appoints first female president in its modern history in latest reform. The Washington Post
4. Emma Day. 2018. Meet the nine female ministers in the UAE’s current cabinet. Emirates Woman.