Until now, only men have been prime ministers in the Netherlands. And this is a surprising fact compared to the rest of the world. According to US research, 70 to 146 countries in the world have had a female head of government. Closer to home, in Northern Europe, 6 out of 8 countries are run by women. The question is, why are we lagging behind? And furthermore, will the pandemic increase the call for female prime ministers?

How come we are lagging behind?

Political scientist Liza Mugge, an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam says, “There are insufficient female role models in politics.” The Netherlands, therefore, needs more female role models, and more female party leaders from major parties that have a chance to become prime ministers. Aspirants are attracted to politics. However, aspirants have ambitions about running for office and being elected within their parties, not about actual premiership. 

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Besides the presence of role models, there is also a big difference between Northern European countries, and for example the Netherlands. Julia Wouters says “Namely that none of those countries believe that things will work out on their own. We, in the Netherlands, think that since women have equal access to education, it is only a matter of time before women will reach the top. In Scandinavian countries, and probably also in the Baltic states, they understand that it is hard work and an ongoing process.”

Julia Wouters is a former advisor to Lodewijk Asscher and author of the book The Side of Power (Why politics is too important to be left to men).

The call for change is growing

Although the call for female prime ministers is increasing, there is still tons of misunderstanding that is also increasing.  Voters no longer have the patience to wait for this progress. Some of the larger parties have never had a female party leader. As seen in the parties CDA  and VDD. D66 has now only had their second female party leader, Sigrid Kaag, with the first party leader and deputy prime minister, Els Borst. Voters want to see gender equality in all sectors and politics are lagging behind. 

Why is the call for change increasing?

Several media outlets have stated that during a crisis like this, countries are better off with a female leader. Success stories from New Zealand and Iceland – both blessed with female leaders– suggest so. But what about in practice? Do countries with female leaders actually have fewer infections and less death?

It’s a little more complicated, but it’s true!

Political scientist Leah Windsor (affiliated with the University of Memphis) and colleagues have looked into it. Their study shows that there is not enough data to concisely say that countries with female leaders are better off however, it turns out to be a bit more nuanced than expected. The reachers not only looked at the gender of the leaders but also at the cultural values of a country. When looking at both variants, they saw that countries with a female leader did turn out to be significantly better, provided that their country embraced the cultural values that made female leadership possible. 

Countries that pursue equality do better

“Egalitarian societies do better,” Windsor explains. “As do societies that are more focused on the long term rather than the short term and value the health and well-being of their citizens, and where role patterns are not strictly enforced and uncertainty is better tolerated (the latter being especially important during a pandemic!). In such societies, women are more likely to be elected as leaders.”

Resources:

Noord Europa scoort zesde vrouwelijke premier: https://www.nouveau.nl/artikel/powervrouwen/noord-europa-scoort-zesde-vrouwelijke-premier?ref=&authId=43b3385b-0946-442e-b545-d63e75d58efe

Goed nieuws: 6 van de 8 leiders in Noord-Europa zijn vrouw: https://www.bedrock.nl/noord-europese-leiders-vrouw/

Waarom krijgt Nederland maar geen vrouwelijke premier? https://nos.nl/artikel/2307951-waarom-krijgt-nederland-maar-geen-vrouwelijke-premier

Number of women leaders around the world has grown, but they are still a small group: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/08/women-leaders-around-the-world/

Gaan we de verkiezingen in met 6 vrouwelijke lijsttrekkers? https://meervrouwenindepolitiek.nl/2020/06/25/6lijsttrekkers/

Ben je tijdens een pandemie beter af met een vrouwelijke leider? https://scientias.nl/ben-je-tijdens-een-pandemie-beter-af-met-een-vrouwelijke-leider/

De eerste vrouwelijke premier komt van D66

https://www.ad.nl/opinie/de-eerste-vrouwelijke-premier-komt-van-d66~aeb660ed/