The Meta Girls research project – young women and politics

The main objective of the Meta Girls Project is to promote active citizenship and encourage young women to participate in politics. The proportion of women in politics in Slovenia is among the lowest in the EU, as well as on a global scale. Equal opportunities for participation in important decision-making processes for both genders significantly affect the level of democracy in a society. The problem is that negative stereotypes and hate speech tend to dissuade potential female candidates from engaging more actively in politics.

A team of experts from the Vita Activa Society for the Implementation of Equality and Plurality (Milica Antić Gaber, Jasna Podreka, Irena Selišnik, Iztok Šori) conducted a study which tried to establish why women do not enter politics more often. The most important findings concerning the reasons for young women’s low participation in politics and the obstacles they face can be summarised as follows:

They follow politics – Compared to young men, young women are relatively well-informed about politics and they predominate in those groups which spend from 1 to 3 hours weekly following political events. The research showed that young women keep up with politics more actively than the general population of women.

They are interested in politics – When comparing the answers of young women and young men, it is clear that their attitude to the statement “I am not interested in politics” differs greatly (there is a 10-percentage-point difference between the total number of young men and women who disagreed with the statement), but the results show that 66.11% of young women still do not agree with it.

Their electoral participation is higher – Young women’s interest in politics can also be deduced from the fact that they vote much more often than young men.

Politics is immoral – Young women do not have a high opinion of moral standards in current politics. More young women than young men agree that politics is immoral. The above statements suggest what the respondents think of the current political situation. We can assume that this is one of the reasons why young women prefer other forms of political involvement, adopt different political stances, and engage in other types of active citizenship.

They perceive politics and what is political differently – The results of the study confirm the findings of some authors that young women enter political parties less frequently than young men. However, young women, like older women, are more inclined to sign petitions, to boycott or to intentionally buy a certain product for ecological, political or ethical reasons, and to donate money for a social or political cause.

Women have different political reactions than men. The question we must ask is how (bearing in mind they believe current politics are immoral) to direct their energy towards more institutionalised political activities (if this is indeed the goal).

Unappealing political parties – In the last year, more than 75% of young men and more than 80% of young women have not participated in any activities of political parties or groups. It is therefore not surprising that they are more active in civic-social organisations rather than political parties. This also shows how unappealing party politics are to most and how informal political activities (uprisings, protests, demonstrations etc.) are being prioritised.

Why are there not more young women in politics? – Young women believe that the two main reasons for the low percentage of women in the political field are to be found in men-only networks and in parties’ calculations when deciding on candidates. They perceive the statements “Women do not want the attention” and “Women, especially young women, cannot work well in politics because of family responsibilities” as the least relevant.

Having more women in politics is an important goal – Despite everything, women believe that politics absolutely requires female participation. Though politics has a mostly negative connotation for young women, they still believe in  political activism and consider it a successful mechanism, provided that some changes occur, including the reconstruction of the gender ratio of active male and female politicians.

Why engage in politics? – The answers of our male and female respondents show an important difference between the two sexes, since men usually associate their political ambitions with competing for certain political functions, while women consider their political engagement in a much broader context and are prepared to act politically to achieve important social objectives.

Young women’s ambitions – For young women, building a successful career is generally more important than politics (this was also confirmed by our research into the politically active female population). We can therefore assume that interrupting their career is harder for them than for men.

Decision making and loved ones – When deciding on whether or not to enter politics, young women often take into account the opinions of those who are important in their personal lives. This is due to the fact that women, more than men, consider the needs of their families and put them before their own ambitions.

The main reasons for young women’s low participation in politics – The problems most young women face are a lack of self-esteem (they perceive themselves as unsuitable for the role) and the difficulty of adapting their personal and family life to their political life.

Encouragement and good practices – According to young women, there are some important measures which would make the decision to enter politics easier: a family-friendly reorganisation of the political field (e.g. organised day-care for children, reduced working hours, etc.), better education and training in politics, and a mentorship system for young women.

 

The study is accessible here. (in Slovene)

 

Title photo: Greverbaby via Pixabay

 

The Meta Dekleta Project is financed by the EEA Financial Mechanism Programme and the Kingdom of Norway for the period 2009–2014.

 

Translated by: Ernest Alilović.

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