Research project

IncluLeader - Inclusive Leadership Initiative: Bridging the Political Gender Gap

Politics needs gender-conscious men. To achieve gender parity in politics we need to target the gatekeepers: male party leadership and a gendered leadership approach. Effective programmes for the empowerment of women are those that make party leaders aware of the political value of gender parity and diversity, and of the practical obstacles to a woman’s political career. A more equal and diverse representation is in itself a sign, and probably a product, of a more sustainable democratic system. Beyond representation, another question the project addresses is whether having a more diverse leadership is also likely to enhance our capacity to tackle our most pressing challenges, i.e. the pandemic, climate change and social inequalities; in other words, whether achieving political inclusivity ensures better sustainability.

Our project Inclusive Leadership Initiative: Bridging the Political Gender Gap, based at the European University Institute, aims to provide new instruments, in the form of policy dialogues and training modules, to transform leadership and bridge the political gender gap in Europe.

Although new women leaders have emerged recently, from Ursula von der Leyen to Kamala Harris and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, data show that politics is the domain where full gender equality remains most elusive, in Europe and elsewhere. This problem persists even though most countries in the world have gender quotas for political representation.

Our project targets male party leadership and its objective is to develop discussions and instruments that can be adapted to national and party-specific environments. It is built upon research, extensive political contacts, the results from a focus groups and a large-scale survey we performed in 2020, and on the experience of a women leadership program run with 23 women.

Methodologically, following a rigorous case selection matrix, we identified eight parties within four Western European countries (France, Germany, Italy and Spain), and started building a network of experts and political referents around the project. Our contacts include Promundo Global, the National Democratic Institute, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Global Center for Gender Equality at Stanford University, the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at Kings College London, the Central and Eastern Europe Network for Gender Issues, the European Women’s Lobby, PES Women, and the ALDE European Women Academy and gender spokespersons in European and national parties, and institutions, around Europe.

We are currently finalising a basic curriculum to organise a small-scale pilot of the training with those parties which in Italy support gender parity within their programme and statutes. This pilot will be followed by an international policy dialogue to test the advanced assumptions of the project, its first findings and training curriculum proposals.

The objectives of the training cover four areas:

  • Raise awareness of gender privileges, gendered conceptions of leadership, and gender gaps in political leadership;
  • Present data on the effects of equal representation in terms of representation, decision-making practices, and quality of public policies;
  • Uncover informal mechanisms in party statutes and electoral laws which affect women’s political careers;
  • Suggestions for how to remove barriers to equal representation and de-gender concepts of leadership.

HERMANIN C., Beyond quota systems: bridging the political gap for women, EUIdeas blog, 26/11/2020

HERMANIN C., Inclusive leadership, COVID and sustainability, EUIdeas blog, 19/03/2021

The team

Group members

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