Leadership and Decision Making

Women’s leadership and decision making

Supporting women’s leadership in the Pacific is a key to reducing poverty, promoting economic growth and democracy and increasing the well-being of women, girls and their families. Greater gender equality, especially in leadership and decision-making, improves economic circumstances at the country, local and household levels. There is evidence that increasing representation of women in decision making improves outcomes in health, education and other local services .[1] 

The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports that the world average of all elected members is 22.6% women and 77.4% men (both houses combined). However, in the Pacific the proportion of women in the Lower House of Representative is 6.1% (as of March 2016 and excluding Australia and New Zealand). In FSM, Tonga and Vanuatu there are no women members in the national legislature (in fact, FSM has never had a woman member of parliament). There is also a significant under-representation of women in leadership and decision making at the sub-national level of government, as well as in leadership positions in statutory authorities and the private sector.

Number of National Women MPs in Pacific Parliaments

Country Number of MPs  Number of women %
Cook Islands 24 4 16.6%*
Federated States  of Micronesia 14 0 0.0%
Fiji 50 8 16.0%
Kiribati 46 3 8.7%
Republic of Marshall Islands 33 3 9.1%
Nauru 19 1 5.3%
Niue 20 2 10.0%*
Palau 29** 3 10.3%*
PNG 111 3 2.7%
Samoa 50 5 10%
Solomon Islands 50 1 2.0%
Tonga 26 0 0.0%
Tuvalu 15 1 6.7%
Vanuatu 52 0 0.0%

All statistics current as at 1 June 2016, from Inter-Parliamentary Union unless otherwise stated.

*Pacific Women in Politics

** This number refers to both Houses of Congress in Palau – the House of Delegates with 16 members, and the House of Senate with 13 members. The three women MPs are Senators.

Although progress to date has been slow, there are some signs of change. For example, quotas have been used successfully in the region to increase women’s representation at the sub-national level in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tuvalu and Samoa. In PNG there is now provision for a nominated seat for women in each Local Level Government, Tuvalu has passed a law mandating female representatives on local Kaupule (local council), and Samoa has recently initiated a program to appoint a woman representative for every village.

Quotas in leadership roles for women can help to ensure that women’s perspectives are sufficiently represented in society. Women can also gain the necessary experience and demonstrate their abilities to seek higher political office. However, quotas will only work when there are safeguards to ensure that the women placed in these positions are representative of a wide cross-section of women.

One of the ways that Pacific Women is addressing the issue of women in leadership in decision making is by establishing the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Project (PWPP). PWPP aims to build the capacity of women parliamentarians in the Pacific, the institutions in which they work, and the staff who support them, so that gender equality issues are better addressed by parliament. Activities to be implemented under the project will support women parliamentarians in raising gender equality issues through their parliamentary and representational work, strengthen parliaments engagement with the community on gender equality issues, support policy and legislative change for gender equality, as well as strengthen knowledge and understanding of gender equality issues across parliaments and parliamentary secretariats.

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 [1] Duflo, E. and P. Topalova (2004). “Unappreciated Service: Performance, Perceptions, and Women Leaders in India”. Mimeo, MIT, p. 12.