Will Women Ever Gain Ground in Russian Politics?
Russian President Vladimir Putin made announcements this week about which staffers he would have by his side in the coming years. His new Cabinet choices were a mix of some of the men who were with him as Prime Minister with a few new names as well. While some have criticized the decision to keep many of the same ministers in seats of power, only shuffling names around, others argue this strategy is routine.
What stands out in the press reports about Putin’s Cabinet decisions is that there are hardly any women present. Veronika Skvortsova replaced Tatyana Golikova in the position of Head of the Ministry of Health and Social Development. But, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of male Cabinet members reflect a constancy in the gender dynamics of Putin’s ruling government, and the wider government structures of Russia.
The Moscow Times notes that the number of female ministers dropped from three to two in Putin’s new government Cabinet this week, serving as a reminder that women are often shunned from political activity. The Times further elucidates this phenomenon:
“There is a stereotype that women can’t be leaders, although this is not correct,” said Marina Baskakova, a leading researcher on gender issues at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
She said both Russian men and women tended to believe the stereotype, and therefore few voted for female candidates and few women ran in elections.
Women remain the clear minority throughout the government in Russia. According to CBC News, only 9.8 percent of political positions, such as State Duma seats, and positions in the Federation Council, are held by women. Compare that number to Sweden or Rwanda, who both have percentages nearing 50 percent. Even the United States, which has always had an embattled relationship with women in politics, holds its position at about 16 percent.
Admittedly, there are quite a few notable and stirring stories of courageous Russian women challenging government structures. Just consider the fearless Novaya Gazeta journalist, Elena Milashina, who has consistently worked to uncover corruption in the government in the face of physical attacks to herself and her journalist colleagues. Ksenia Sobchak, a talk show host, has also been a severe critic of Putin’s government, broadcasting her opinions on her show Gosdep.
And while their work is an essential tool in critiquing the government, there is still a clear dearth of women in official government positions. Russia ranks number 92 out of 189 for the number of female lawmakers working in parliament’s lower chamber, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and The Moscow Times.
The question remains: should quotas be put in place to ensure more places for women in political positions in the government in Russia? Researchers looking at the scant number of women in positions of power think quotas are the only way women will gain a foothold in this structure. Outdated conceptions of feminine worth continue to undermine the struggles of women who want to push for success in politics.
Photo Credit: Presidential Press