Department of Government
8 MARCH: International Women's Day

Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress

This year’s theme for International Women's Day focuses on Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress and the crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. For this occasion we re-visit Professor Ragnhild Muriaas' research on gendered electoral financing, delving into global initiatives shaping women's political participation in different countries.

Portrait of Ragnhild.
UiB/Jenny Guo Strømsnes

Main content

Access to Politics: Money is Power

According to Muriaas, Murray and Wang (2020), it is easier to access politics with a wealthier background, and without this wealth, money becomes a barrier for entering politics especially for women. To ease women’s access to politics, an increasing number of initiatives and specific strategic tools to lever political recruitment of women have emerged in recent years. 

The financial levers, or gendered electoral financing (GEF), involves direct financial support to female candidates to eliminate specific costs political races, provide either reward or penalties for increasing the recruitment of women candidates or provide financial assistance for programs to support women’s entry into politics. Specific cases of GEF are EMILY’s List in the US, where financial support is provided to Democratic female candidates that are in favor of abortion rights. In France, parties get reduced state finances if they do not live up to the expectations of gender quotas. In Chile, the government offers financial aid directly to female candidates and through political parties who nominate them. In Malawi and Ghana, gendered elecoral financing intiatives such as discounted filing fees have been used to support women. 

Gendered-Financing Impact on Women's Office Representation 

Based on the studies conducted by Muriaas, Mazur and Hoard (2021), the conclusion is that finances that is provided from the above and the bottom, top-down and bottom-up finances, have a positive effect on the gender balances in legislatures. However, when finances are provided from above, it is more straightforward especially when the funding initiatives are attached to gender quotas. As explained by Muriaas; “Some funding initiative happens spontaneously from the ground by someone who wants to help women to stand for elections. Such grassroots initiatives have identified that having enough sources to stand is a barrier for many women. The initiatives therefore try different ways to collect funds that target women’s campaigns directly. It can work, but it is more difficult to get a big enough lift".

She continues: “When initiatives are taken from above by state actors who use public funding to incentives changed behavior, we see that governments even learn by mistakes and make needed adjustments in policies to make it work better”. In 2002, the French government implemented a gender quota accompanied by a symbolic fine. Back then women constituted 12 per cent of the seats in the national parliament. In 2012 this penalty increased, leading to also an increase in numbers of female representatives to 27 per cent. In 2017 the penalty rose even higher, resulting in yet a higher count of female representatives.

Investing in Women for Political Equality

Gender equality remains one of our greatest human rights challenges. Not only is there a necessity to allocate resources to empower women, but it is also fundamental in constructing and sustaining inclusive societies worldwide. Women face under-representation in politics and legislatures. These arenas are dominated by rich people- a wealth that is more so often accumulated and dominated by men. As much as investing in women is a human rights issue, is it also an economic imperative. 

In conclusion, International Women's Day prompts reflection on the imperative to invest in women for accelerated progress and global inclusivity. Professor Ragnhild Muriaas’ research underscores the positive impact of gender-targeted campaign financing, shedding light on some successful cases and initiatives. As we advocate for gender equality, it is evident that strategic financial interventions contribute significantly to advancing women's representation in politics, emphasizing the transformative power of investments in women for a more equitable future. #InvestInWomen