How to get more female political representatives

09. May 2018

by Zilla Boyer

I used to be a kid with glasses that dreamt of being the first female prime minister of the Netherlands. My dreams have changed since then, but I expected that the Netherlands would have had a female prime minister by now, and that women and minorities would be better represented into politics. But this is not the case.

It is really painful to me that the parliament of the Netherlands fails to reflect the diversity of the country’s population. For example, none of the current 150 MPs is black and only 30% is female. Before the local elections of last March, the majority of the 380 municipal councils – except for 2 (Boxtel and Blaricum) – were mostly composed of men.

That is why last year I worked on a campaign founded by a friend of mine called Vote for a Woman (Stem op een Vrouw in Dutch). The campaign not only invited citizens to vote for women, but also to vote strategically. For instance, we advised people not to vote for the first woman on a party’s list, as she is very likely to get into parliament anyway, and to vote for a woman listed lower on the party’s list. This approach really worked. Both men and women were very enthusiastic about the campaign and, thanks to our voting tactics, three additional women were elected into parliament in 2017. Our campaign paid off again, when during the local elections that took place in March, as more women than expected were elected into office. In this way, politics is becoming a better representation of our society and is showing the next generation of girls that they, just like boys, can become prime minister.

Of course we also received criticism, especially from men, who said that they would vote for the best candidate rather than vote for somebody because of their sex. Voting for a good candidate that you believe in is obviously important. Therefore, we always encouraged people to vote for a candidate that meets their demands. But we feel it is equally important that the political class is a better reflection of our increasingly diverse society. Both one’s background and sex shape one’s experience of and perspective on the society. In order to have a good representation, it is important that these perspectives get a voice within politics.

A better representation of society at the political level also contributes to the creation of policies that correspond with citizens’ diverse wishes and needs. Moreover, young girls are likely to become more ambitious if they have female leaders as role models.

As Els Borst, a female minister of health of the Netherlands once said: “Politics are way too important to be left to men alone”.