4 Reasons the Gender Equality in Public Administration Movement Matters

Since the formal launch of the United Nations Development Program’s “Gender Equality in Public Administration” report in June of this year, increased attention, activism, and interest has been given to addressing gender equality in public administration. The report includes research about equality, and proposes policy and programming recommendations to advance women’s equal participation in public administration.

At the launch of the “Gender Equality in Public Administration” report, UNDP Administrator Helene Clark gave an inaugural address outlining the importance of the report. She explained that there are 37 countries where women account for less than 10 percent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses and that, despite international goals for improvement, women remain underrepresented in decision-making in public administration. What makes the movement matter? Several key things.

It Benefits Everyone

There is continual evidence that women’s equal participation in leadership positions benefit more than just the individual. Where there are women present in policy and decision-making, a range of important gender equality issues that affect families, societies, economies, and entire countries are more likely to be addressed. From passing laws to combat gender-based violence to fighting for fair health services and education for women, the global changes that female public administrators help create are many.

Companies Perform Better

When companies include women in their decision-making, they often perform better. According to a new study from DDI, a Pittsburgh human resources consulting firm, there is comprehensive evidence that companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles. Additional research also shows that stocks perform better if women are on company boards and women are rated as better overall leaders by their peers, bosses, direct reports, and other associates.

It Sets an Example

Public administration is at the foundation of government and plays an integral part in creating national policies and programs. Ideally, public administration is guided by principles of justice, equality, fairness, and non-discrimination. If public administration can lead the way in removing gender-based barriers and allow the benefits and rewards of men and women leading and participating equally to be showcased, it will serve as a working example for the rest of the world.

Women Have Been Leading in Public Administration for Decades

Female leadership in public administration is not a new thing. In a paper by Mary E. Guy called Gender and Diversity in Public Administration, she outlines the work of women like T.J. Bowkler, the leader of the Women’s Municipal League of Boston, who in 1912 outlined the gender-specific and unique abilities women have to make any place a home. She argued that these skills translated to making better communities in cities and urged the abilities, and importance, of women leaders in democracy. Women like Bowkler and Julia Lathrop paved the path and leaders like Ferdous Ara Begum continue to lead the way.

The Gender Equality in Public Administration movement has the unique opportunity to bring gender-equality to the political forefront in communities and countries across the world by generating a political representation and response as only public administrators are able to do.