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International Women's Week 2014

By Mark Buttweiler

Last week the whole world celebrated International Women's Day, but how does women empowerment relate to the Pacific Rim?

Business Tech's Mapping Women in Politics described trends in the changing representation of women in parliaments around the world (note: glass ceiling still firm). Although huge gaps persist between male and female participation, the last two decades have certainly brought progress.

This infographic shows MPs across states for cross-national comparisons of female political representation. If you like faces more than stats, The Guardian's Top 100 Women: Politics or the Huffington Post's 50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders To Celebrate On International Women's Day are a great place to start. Don't forget those behind the scene, such as The Women Leaders Who Drive Aquino’s Reform Agenda in the Philippines.

As the graph above shows, however, all regions are not approaching gender equity in political representation equally. For its level of development, East Asia does particularly poorly, with Japan and Korea scoring the worst in the OECD. The New York Times asked Why Do Men Dominate Chinese Politics, and while the state supposedly supports female participation, Ms. Zhang Hui argues that as women get higher in politics, opportunities for further advancement shrink.  

What about economic participation? Asia Foundation writes how Inclusive Growth in Asia is Impossible Without Including Women, with a basic thesis stating gender equality improves economic growth, especially through women being actively involved in small and medium enterprises. However, Asia’s ‘Shocking’ Gender Gap persists, with lower pay and less than 10% of board seats occupied by females.

How can we fight these gaps? Barbara Kotschwar at the Peterson Institute of Economics argues that it pays to let girls play; increased participation in sports correlates with better grades, improved health, higher-paid jobs and higher achievements in areas historically dominated by men. Increased access to the internet is another method to improve women's participation in the economy, by empowering entrepreneurs with access to a much larger market.

While increasing women participation throughout various sectors is certainly important, so is increasing men's awareness of persistent gender inequality. UN experts call for engaging men and boys as allies in the fight for gender equality, reminding us that women's rights are human rights. Shouldn't we be ashamed that this needs reminding?


Mark Buttweiler is the Content Director at the Journal for International Policy Solutions, which includes taking charge of JIPS’ new blog. From 2010 to 2011, he did research through the Fulbright Association in Bulgaria studying the Movement for Rights and Freedoms: a political party that represents ethnic minorities in Bulgaria. Following the fellowship, he moved to South Korea to teach English as a second language through the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. At IR/PS, Mark is particularly interested in economic issues in South and North Korea. 


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