Report

Symposium, “Women’s Leadership and Political Empowerment …”

SYMPOSIUM REPORT
“Women’s Leadership and Political Empowerment From a Global Perspective”
International Symposium in Commemoration of the 140th Year Anniversary of Ochanomizu University

Ki-young Shin
Mona Lena Krook
Jackie F. Steele
Chang-Ling Huang
Makoto Kobayashi
Susan Franceschet
Claire Annesley
 
 Jinock Lee
 
 Mariko Adachi
 
Mari Miura
Reiko Oyama
 

Institute for Gender Studies of the Ochanomizu University hosted an international symposium, titled “Women’s Leadership and Political Empowerment From a Global Perspective,” on October 12th, 2015. This is the first international academic symposium hosted by the Ochanomizu University in commemoration of the 140th year anniversary that assembles renowned scholars from around the world to discuss issues relevant to women’s leadership and political empowerment.

In the first session, which was titled “Worldwide Trends of Gender Quotas,” Mona Lena Krook (Rutgers University), Jackie Steele (University of Tokyo), and Chang-Ling Huang (National Taiwan University) participated as panelists, and Makoto Kobayashi (Ochanomizu University) and Miura Mari (Sophia University) served as the chair and the discussant. Dr. Krook began the session by stating that the proportion of women parliamentarians has almost doubled in the past two decades, also making the claim that this dramatic increase in female parliamentarians can be attributed to the diffusion of quota policies worldwide. She showed that more than 130 countries now have some form of quotas, and further demonstrated that quotas not only help resolve the problem of women’s political underrepresentation, but also that they broadly contribute to improving the quality of democracy and democratic institutions. On the other hand, Dr. Steele asked which measures foster substantive political empowerment in practice and by design. She advocated for the importance of thresholds of self-representation by and for historically marginalized/excluded social groups. Finally, Dr. Huang’s presentation empirically investigated the impact of gender quotas in Taiwan by comparing career paths, policy interests, and policy proposals of parliamentarians by gender and political party.

As the panel discussant, Dr. Miura ended the session by strongly advocating for the adoption of gender quotas in Japan, particularly considering the consistent research findings that illustrate positive impacts of gender quotas on women’s descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation.

In the second session, titled “Women’s Political Leadership and Executive Power,” Susan Franceschet (University of Calgary), Claire Annesley (Sussex University), and Jinock Lee (Sogang University) participated as panelists, and Mariko Adachi (Ochanomizu University) and Reiko Oyama (Komazawa University) served as the chair and the discussant. Dr. Franceschet made the claim that equal representation cannot be achieved simply in the form of “numbers” but rather by successfully securing positions of “power (e.g., finance minister).” Dr. Annesley argued that the process of cabinet appointment, which remains largely non-transparent in many countries, often disfavors women. Thus, she claimed that a reform towards a more transparent appointment process would increase women’s cabinet representation. Dr. Lee looked into the case of Korea’s first female president Park Geun-Hye, and investigated the ways in which Park has symbolically shaped public understandings of political representation and participation.

Following the panelists’ presentations, Dr. Oyama raised key questions within the Japanese political context. For instance, given that cabinet reshuffle takes place rather frequently, and individuals with political experience in the Diet (where there are few women) often take cabinet seats, what specific reforms should political parties in Japan undertake in order to increase women’s cabinet representation?

Dr. Shin (Ochanomizu University), who moderated the symposium, ended with a remark that gender quotas is not just good for women but also for men and the society overall, and advocated for the need to work towards gender equality and women’s leadership both from within and outside the academic community.

In sum, this international symposium provided an excellent opportunity for both researchers and the public in Japan to learn about women’s leadership and political empowerment from a global perspective. Thematically, the symposium included a broad range of cases on women’s representation across political institutions in different countries. Similarly, the panelists (who are world-class experts in the research field) provided a concise overview of the global trend along with rich contextual details to the Japanese audience. Finally, insightful discussions led by Japanese experts suggested specific avenues Japan could take to enhance women’s political representation in the future.

Jiso Yoon
JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Ochanomizu University

*“Gender and Japanese Political Science” by Claire Annesley (University of Sussex)

Kimono Murofushi Masaharu Nakagawa Aiji Tanaka

 

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