Political Gender Gap under Female Presidents: Taiwan

Men and women are considered to have different strengths when it comes to politics—women make better compromisers while men take more risks. The problem is that we don’t see many women represented in political positions, particularly in positions where the woman has to be appointed.

Over the summer I lived in Taiwan during the inauguration of Taiwan’s first democratically elected female president, Cai Yingwen. Reporters from all over the world came to document this historic moment that signified a new era of progress for all Asian countries.

I could not help but ask local Taiwanese their opinion of Cai Yingwen. No one seemed shocked or worried that their president was a female. Because she was only recently elected and unable to create instant stability, many Taiwanese people responded with uncertainty. They wanted her to improve their economy. Many people did not feel particularly partial or impartial towards her, but a phrase often repeated was that the “younger generation” really supports her.

I wanted to know if the election of Cai Yingwen would result in more women representatives in Taiwan. Professor Ping Tung from the National Pingtung University and UN representative for Taiwanese aboriginals informed me that, since the inauguration of Cai Yingwen, the number of women in a 40-seat cabinet had actually decreased from eight women to four women.

CEDAW in Action (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) writes,

“Tsai’s gender equality policy in 2012 promised that the gender ratio in governments — whether local or central, and regardless of pay grade — would at least be one-third women, but the last time there were so few women in the Cabinet was under then-premier Vincent Siew in 1997, she wrote. Tsai’s recent predecessors have done better, Lee said, referring to President Ma Ying-jeou and Chen.” (Hui-ping and Chung). This ratio is surprising because cabinet members are appointed by the president on recommendation of premier.

In 2008 Taiwan had one of the highest percentages of women in government in the world. “With a record number of women currently serving in the Cabinet, statistics reveal the ROC ahead of the international curve. Eight women, or 20 percent, currently serve in the Cabinet, and 34 female legislators, or 30 percent, were elected…”

Instead of appointing more women to the Taiwanese cabinet than her previous male counterpoints with a woman at the helm of the Taiwanese state, the reverse has occurred. The election of a female president does not mean an automatic increase of women in government positions.

I know many factors may impact the decrease of women in the cabinet, even with the presence of a female president. But it is surprising.

After seeing this decrease in women in positions of power in Taiwan, I thought about my own country and the new presidency. President-Elect Trump has an entire cabinet to fill. Will there be more women appointed to cabinet seats in the past, or will it continue to be predominantly men?

Before 1993, the percentage of women in the U.S. cabinet never rose above 18%. Under President Bill Clinton, the percentage increased to 32% from 1993-1997, and again to 41% from 1997-2001. After dropping to 19% in 2001 under President George W. Bush, currently under President Obama the percentage is 35%, 6% less than President Clinton. What will President-Elect Trump decide to do?

It is my hope that my country will recognize the importance of gender balance in all government and political bodies. My experience in Taiwan suggests that having a woman in power does not always mean there will be more women appointed in government. President-Elect Trump’s appointee choices may serve as a forecast for the amount of women his administration will employ during the coming years.

Women bring important insights to decision-making and policies that will not be considered with their absence. Women need more representation in the highest government bodies to bring their perspective to discussions about the future of the country.  With such great imbalances between men and women in political bodies, we can only achieve imbalanced policies.

—by BJL

Works Cited:

[1] 2015. Women and Leadership. January 14. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/women-and-leadership/.

[2] Chen, Hui-ping, and Jake Chung. 2016. Women’s Groups Prostest Lack of Women in Cabinet. May 4. Accessed October 22, 2016. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2016/05/04/2003645451.

[3]  Agency, Central Intelligence. 2016. The World Factbook: Executive Branch. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2077.html.

[4] Idiazabal, George. 2010. Taiwan Today. September 24. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=119269&ctNode=449.

[5] Klein, Ezra. 2013. Obama’s record on appointing women is worse than Clinton’s. August 26. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/08/26/obamas-record-on-appointing-women-is-much-worse-than-clintons/.

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One thought on “Political Gender Gap under Female Presidents: Taiwan

  1. ariellebadgernewman says:

    I appreciate your insights after viewing the election in Taiwan. It makes me wonder what we will see from our new President-Elect Trump and what kind of people he will put into his administration.

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