At its core, a proportionally representative system is one that should naturally represent an entire population demographically.
In parliaments around the world, women collectively hold 23.02 percent of legislative seats with outliers on both ends. However, women constitute for 50 percent of the world’s population. So the question arises of why representative systems continue to exclude a large portion of the population from legislative systems.
Women should hold equal roles in politics as their male counterparts. Whether reached through mandatory quotas, constitutional amendments or voluntary party platforms, promoting gender parity in the government is crucial to furthering gender equality and introducing gender-neutral platforms into politics.
Taking Sweden — a country that continues to uphold its role as a leader of women in governmental positions — as an example, it becomes clear that promoting gender equality in politics is both achievable and rewarding. The country with the sixth-most women participating in government as of 2017, 44 percent of the parliament is made up of women, while 12 of the 24 ministers in the executive branch are women. Contrary to popular belief, however, Sweden, along with the other Nordic countries, does not have a mandatory quota system.
Instead, major Swedish parties have enacted voluntary quota systems. The first two, introduced in 1987, were the Green and the Left parties. Both still require a minimum of 50 percent of the party lists to include women during elections. The Swedish Social Democrats followed this trend towards gender equality by developing the zipper system — requiring women and men to alternate on ballots — and internal voluntary quotas in 1993.
Results of more gender-focused parliaments are undeniably beneficial to all members of society. According to the Swedish government’s official website, “the Swedish government has declared itself a feminist government, devoted to a feminist foreign policy.” Although gender-neutral policies are achievable without women necessarily in the government, female politicians undisputably turn some of the policies on the agenda to more gender-based ones. For example, in 2009 the parliament passed the Swedish Discrimination Act, “to combat discrimination of all kinds regardless of sex, transgender identity, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age.” Another example is the generous paid family leave system in Sweden, which is neutral for both genders.
However a country decides to promote women to government roles, the importance of equal gender representation is crucial. The actions taken by the Swedish government of voluntary party quotas seems to be one of the most effective. This is because representation in the government is almost equal between genders in terms of women in parliamentarian and ministerial positions. Allowing half of the population to respectively constitute half of the government is not only a feminist decision; it is the only logical one.