The decision making inequity


Historically, women have formed almost around 50% of the global population. 50% of human civilization, society, culture, and family. But when it comes to voice and decision, the female gender has hardly had any agency or representation. We can blame this on many factors from patriarchy to just the way things emerged in pre-modern society; whereby women took care of matters at home, related to children and family, and factually spent a large part of their lives and energy giving birth to children and feeding them.

In much earlier, feudal, colonial, or even early democratic societies, let alone the right to represent, women didn't often even enjoy the right to vote. The universal suffrage aka 1 person equals 1 vote and every individual has the right to vote, in the early 19th century meant only universal manhood suffrage.Even the progressive early adopters of universal suffrage like New Zealand, the self-governing British Colony granted suffrage to men in 1879 and extended it to women fourteen years later in 1893. Finland was the first country in 1906 to grant universal suffrage to both men and women. And an outcome of these century-old advances can be witnessed today in form of both nations being led by Female Heads of State, 40-year-old Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and 34-year-old Sanna Marin in Finland.

The United States though had a much-convoluted journey and relationship with suffrage. In 1791, after the victory in the Revolutionary War from the British Empire and the ratification of United States Bills of right, the US declared suffrage to property-owning or tax-paying white males about 6% of the population. Between 1869 to 1920, various states granted women the right to vote, but it was not until the 1920s that women obtained the right to vote in all the states with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920). However, continuing its murky relationship with race and immigration, the US still did not achieve universal suffrage till 1964 till the intervention from the US Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren announcing a series of landmark decisions towards "one man, one vote" electoral system in the US.

India jumped many of these hoops of the struggles of pre-modern societies with suffrage and other related rights. In 1950, post the independence from British India, the Republic of India through its Constitution granted voting rights to all adult citizens irrespective of race or gender, or religion. However, the lack of struggle or movement, which ensured other nations to obtain the same suffrage failed to develop a women's political movement in India; which still reflects 70 years later in form of abysmally low female representation in politics across the country.

Democracy, the government of the people, by the people, for the people

But the whole lot of 50% of the people have been missing from Indian and Global democracies for a large part of modern governments. For many other jobs from CEOs to the Mining sector to Tech, often low female participation/ representation gets attributed to skills, ability to work hard, manage between family and work, and countless explanations in the realm of patriarchal excuses and legitimate barriers to entry.

But politics and governance and democracy, hardly anywhere across the world, has skills or education or hard work as the primary criterion. From a Village Panchayat to local RWA (Resident Welfare Association) to State Legislature to Central Cabinet, democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people; thereby deeming 50% representation of women by design, to adequately reflect a society, to aptly be called a democracy.

In fact, in a world filled with discussions on the gender pay gap, or wealth gap, the most insidious and unwarranted gap that arises is the decision-making gap. Despite formulating a full-half of the human society, women in modern times or historic times have hardly formed a tangible voice or agent in decision making.

It will not be unfair to say that the world today we live in, is a man's world designed by men, and unless women were to find their way to positions of designing, shaping, and deciding the world, it will neither be a democracy, nor an inclusive society, nor a fair world. So chuck the wealth gap, forget the pay gap, make your voices heard, make your decisions matter, assist (for men) or become (for womxn) a female legislator of your society today.

  • Robert Justin Goldstein, Political Repression in 19th Century Europe (Routledge, 1983)
  • Shirley Roberts, Sophia Jex-Blake: A Woman Pioneer in Nineteenth Century Medical Reform (Routledge, 1993)
Oct 2, 2020

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