26 female government leaders are not enough
Another 145 years?! That's how long it could take, the World Economic Forum estimates in its Global Gender Gap Report 2021, for men and women to play an active political role to the same extent worldwide - provided that the gap continues to narrow as slowly as it has over the past 15 years. The UN Women's Report speaks of 130 years in terms of highest political office.
In order to contribute to acceleration, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has set a starting point in 2020 with a campaign under the title Female Forward to draw even more attention to the unequal participation of men and women in all areas of society with its worldwide work and to become active with its partners in concrete projects. After all, equality has been a natural part of liberal philosophy at least since Mary Wollstonecraft ("Vindication of the rights of woman", 1792) or John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill.
The fact that the results of the work abroad are reflected in the IAF programmes can be seen one year later in the selection of topics and the participants proposed by the foreign offices: For the first time, the number of female participants exceeded the number of male participants, for the first time the IAF was commissioned to offer a seminar on political leadership exclusively for women, and several information programmes were held on how to strengthen women in politics, what framework conditions are important and what measures can be promising.
Female role models give courage
Even if one adjusts the gender balance statistics for those programmes that were exclusively aimed at women, the proportion of female seminar participants was slightly higher than that of males, namely 51% to 49%!
The exchange in the IAF programmes on the situation of women in politics showed once again that these are quite similar worldwide and that even in freer, democratic societies special efforts are needed to overcome them. For example, traditional role models, prejudices against women in political leadership positions or (predominantly male-designed) political processes that made it particularly difficult for women to get involved were mentioned.
However, it also became clear that women themselves can actively contribute to improving the situation by acquiring necessary skills such as political communication or strategic planning and by consciously building networks. It was also important to deal with the fact that women assume that supposedly feminine characteristics guide their actions without questioning them and therefore, for example, more often withdraw or pursue goals less ambitiously.
Female role models are also encouraging: The IAF was able to win over some impressive liberal leaders from politics and business for the exchange, such as the Latvian Minister of the Interior Marija Golubeva, today's Federal Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, several members of the European Parliament or the German Bundestag, the former campaign manager of the Estonian Liberals and today's management consultant Annika Arras, the internationally recognised authoritarianism expert Karen Stenner or the author and empathy researcher Mimi Nicklin.
„Liberalism is adultism“
But beyond the exclusive seminars and programmes for women, the IAF is also committed to creating awareness for equality by now inviting almost as many female as male personalities as experts. Particularly impressive was the exchange of ideas with Prof. Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, a highly respected US professor of economics and history, liberal thinker and author, inspired the participants not only with her own life story but also with her view of liberalism: "Liberalism is adultism". By this she means that liberalism is the only political school of thought that really sees people as adults who do not need to be educated, patronised or kept on the right path.
Dignity arises for all people when they naturally have equal rights ("equality of permission") to shape their lives and participate in society. This is how one could describe the basic attitude with which the IAF has been designing its programmes for many years, implementing measures didactically and contributing to the worldwide work of the Foundation. Also for the fact that it will not take 145 years until the equal participation of women and men is normality.