Countries That Have One Female Leader Rarely Get a Second
A lot of Americans hoped we'd elect our first female president this year, and that would've been a major step forward for gender equality. But it may not have been as significant as we assumed, social psychologists say. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, it's the appointment of a second female leader that signals a greater openness to women in power, and few countries have actually reached that milestone.
Only a third of countries that have had one female leader have gotten another one, making for a total of 20 governments in the world run by more than one woman. San Marino, a microstate surrounded by Italy, has had by far the most female representation, with 17 women running their government since 1960. Next are Switzerland with seven, Norway with five, then Bangladesh, Haiti, and Lithuania with four. But the majority of governments that had once been led by women had failed to appoint another woman, and often, those that did waited decades to do so.
London Business School professor Daniel Effron told Bloomberg this pattern could have something to do with "moral licensing" — the same tendency that leads companies with diversity training programs to disproportionately hire white men. Once people feel like they can prove they're not sexist, they make less of an effort to not be sexist. "If you see your past behavior as progress towards a goal, you won’t feel you have to put as much effort into achieving that goal,” he explained.
But, of course, having one woman leader isn't reason enough to slow down the fight for gender equality in government. And in fact, when a nation starts to believe its work is done, that can set that effort back. When we do get our first female president, that'll be a cause for celebration, but we won't be finished until having female leaders is so normal we don't need to celebrate it.
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