THE GENDER FACTOR IN LEADERSHIP
Gender equality in political power in most democratic nations had grown tremendously in the past fifty years. More women are running for and being elected to national parliament than ever before and a number of women hold executive positions within their nations as never before. Despite this success in influence and representation at a very high level, research on a number of western industrialized democracies also finds persistent gender gap in citizens’ political participation with women less politically engaged than men. (Burns 2007: Burns et al 1997)
There are many factors that determine the attitude of people towards political participation who in theory they vote for, and what political parties they support. Much factors-including family, gender, religion, race and ethnicity all contribute to people’s political attitudes and behavior. (e.g The case of the presidential election between the Nigeria ex-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the new president in the person of Buhari). In this article, we shall briefly explicate the various factors above but dwelling more on our main topic which is the ‘gender factor’.
It is pertinent to understand that the family is generally the first and most enduring influence on young people’s development of political opinions. Despite the disagreements and generation gaps, children tend to grow and vote the same way their parents do. As they continue to grow, other influences such as peer groups, age grades, education, etc. crisscross the family, and their way of thinking develops, gradually they will diverge from the parent’s attitude. However the parent’s influence with not totally be erased, hence the more politically active ones family the more likely you are to hold the same belief.
Most religious beliefs often shape the way people vote. The Christian coalition is a group that has over two million members and represents the view that people of faith have a right and a responsibility to be involved in the world around them. Since people differ in religious practices, they will want to vote someone who is of same religion with them and have same religious beliefs with them. Taking Nigeria as a case study, most Christians would vote for a follow Christian and Muslims voting for their fellow Muslims.
RACES AND ETHINICITY:
Races and ethnicity are one of the most important factors that shapes people’s attitude towards politics. Just like the religious factor, people tend to vote for someone that is either close to them or that is their brother even if he is reliable or not, once he is related to them, that is whom they will support.
GENDER GAP IN PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS
“A participatory public is crucial democratic responsiveness and is seen as an intrinsic good” (c.f. verba 1996), and thus systematic and persistent patterns of unequal participation along existing lives of stratification such as gender, are threat to both political equality and democratic performance. It is a well known fact that women have made substantial gains in wielding political influence, yet women are still found wanting with regards to their participation in formal politics across a variety of western nations, Nigeria in particular. It is clearly seen and observed that men participate more in politics more than women and in my own view and I think it should be at least a 60 to 40 percent equality, because since women are persons, they shouldn’t be relegated to the background, they also have their right of franchise (i.e. to vote and be voted for) nevertheless, a number of factors have been suggested as explanations of this gender gap; namely, that women are less likely to engage in politics because of their lower access to socio-economic resources e.g. men are far more likely to be employed full time than women and women’s lack of political interest and information may be rooted in social process such as gender socialization. Women are socialized towards a gender vote that is more passive, private, rule abiding, and compassionate while men are autonomy and self reliance (Brown Miller 1984; fox and lawless 2004; west and limes man 1987). This socialization may contribute to women’s lower levels of political engagement with differences in political attitude and participation beginning early in life.
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN POLITICAL KNOWLEDGE ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
According to onderein, Heather L. and Daniel lons white 2011, an observation was carried out on sex based differences in political knowledge and its impact on men and women’s participation in six different political activities and the result was that “at lower level of political knowledge, women’s lower political knowledge depresses their participation in politics. The participation gap disappears at higher levels of political knowledge for three participatory acts namely; attempting to influence a vote, attending political meetings, and donating to political campaigns. Furthermore, at higher level of political knowledge women are more likely than men to vote, wear a political button or work for political campaigns. So the conclusion now reveals that political knowledge differentially affects men and women’s political participation. These finding compliment existing scholarship that finds women holding themselves to a higher standard before engaging in political activities such as running for electoral office.
IMPORT ANCE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS
Politics should represent a country’s entire inhabitant. The only right of democracy is one in which men and women are evenly to be represented. Women are not minority groups that need to be protected; women actually make up half of the country’s population. Women possess half of the nation’s talent, half of the population’s knowledge and half of the country’s skill. The chances of finding a competent leader is twice as big when women are also involved or recruited as well. Women has their own interest and needs, they are in the best position to defend those interest, they are believed to have a proper style, an evenly participation of women and men may lead to diversity of ideas values and patterns of behavior that can only result in an enrichment. Increasing women’s representation in the government can empower women, and is necessary to achieve gender parity.
Finally women as the conventional primary caretaker of children often have a more prominent role than men in advocating for children, resulting in a double dividend in terms of the benefit of women’s representation’ female representative not only advance women’s rights, but also advance the right of children.
Since politics shapes the way people live, and gives due weight to individual rights within that large group of people making that society more enjoyable to live in, taking care of our community interests, and providing our children’s education and unemployment benefits, despite its challenges, I strongly attest to the fact that politics should not be restricted only to men, women since they have the right to vote and be voted for; should be given the opportunity to participate actively in the government of the people by the people and for the people.