Cognitive Analysis of Women's Participation in Politics

February 20, 2013
By Sun XiaomeiEditor: yangyang

Participation in politics, in terms of its connotations, consists of two aspects: (1) Democratic participation, which means the citizen as the social subject exercises the rights of democratic election, suggestion, and so on; and (2) Participation in power, which means the citizen directly takes part in every field of the management of state and social affairs, in making decisions and being involved in public administration.

Cognitive Analysis of Women's Participation in Politics
Sun Xiaomei, Professor of Department of Women’s Studies of China Women’s University. [BJWOMEN.GOV.CN]

Different to previous research in this area, The 3rd Survey on the Political Status of Women in Beijing is based on groups of the broader entirety of women as the objects of research. Its aim is to enable the Party, government and all levels of women’s associations to learn about the demands politics make, and the concepts of social life held by women in different groups, and to put forward alternative measures and a basis for scientific decision-making.

Cognitive analysis of differences between men's and women's participation in politics
According to the research data results the external factors affecting women’s participation in politics are entwined with public opinion and social psychology. Thus, traditional political culture of men’s social roles and women’s family roles plays an important role in shaping their gender roles.
--Data analysis of men or women in charge

On the basis of statistics, 23.5 percent of respondents to the survey from common people in every walk of life since they began work have become forepersons, village committee or residence group leaders or taken superior titles. Of these, the ratio for men who act as forepersons, village or residence group leaders or with superior titles is remarkably higher than those of women (approximately 28.4 percent: 19.1 percent). The ratio of men who take on administrative ranks or higher positions is significantly higher than that of women. As for women, the ratio of those who had no administrative ranks (approximately 78.1 percent) is obviously higher than that of men (64.7 percent). In fact, respondents of different genders in social/non-governmental organizations displayed significant variations. For instance, the ratio for men who are core members/middle managers is much higher than that for women (men: 14.7 percent and women 6.1 percent). However, the ratio for women as organization founders/persons in charge/senior executives is slightly higher than for men (women: 3.9 percent, men: 2.8 percent). These statistics, however, can not prove that women are now involved at a higher rate in participation in politics. That’s because women are mostly engaged in the most grassroots public interest areas of society.

--Analysis of the reasons why few women participate in politics

The reasons why there are relatively few women in all levels of leadership positions considered by respondents from common people in all fields, successively, are: women have greater housework burdens (accounting for 64.9 percent); cultivation is inadequate and defective selection mechanisms for  women (63.1 percent); prejudice against women (58.8 percent); no family support (24.3 percent); poor ability (13.4 percent); unwilling to be the leader (11.2 percent); and unsuitable to be the leader (10.9 percent). The reasons underlying these statistics are: traditional concepts of “men’s work centers around 'away from home', while women’s work centers around 'in the home',” defective selection mechanisms for officials, and social cultural prejudice. These all still play leading roles in people’s minds. Therefore, it’s necessary to change this unreasonable phenomenon and achieve more opportunities for women to take part in determination and management.  

Different genders have different opinions: Of men, a higher proportion of respondents said they believed women were unsuitable to be leaders (men: 14.3 percent, women: 8.7 percent); Women said they preferred to regard the main reasons as heavy housework burdens (women: 67.8 percent, men: 61.5 percent), prejudice against women (women: 62.5 percent, men: 54.3 percent), cultivation inadequate, and defective election mechanisms (women: 66.9 percent, men: 58.8 percent).

Different regions have different opinions: A higher proportion of people in the rural areas considers the ability of men is superior to that of women (rural: 19.4 percent, urban: 9.3 percent); unwilling to be leaders (rural: 16.8 percent, urban: 7.4 percent); and unsuitable to be leaders (rural 15.7 percent, urban: 7.5 percent). Compared with respondents in towns, a large group of rural respondents said they believed the main reasons why there were few women leaders were: no family support (rural: 32.4 percent, urban: 18.6), heavy housework burdens (rural: 72.7 percent, urban: 59.5 percent), prejudice against women (rural: 62.9 percent, urban: 56.0 percent) and other causes. Moreover, the respondents – no matter if they were in the countryside or in urban areas, both said they thought “cultivation was inadequate, and also election mechanisms being defective” were reasons giving rise to the problem.

To sum up, there are still four obvious phenomena: (1) Overall cultural quality of rural women in outer suburbs is lower than that of men; (2) Influence of the traditional concept of “men’s work centers around ‘away from home’, while women’s work centers around ‘in the home’”; (3) The social atmosphere is not strong in encouraging and supporting women’s participation in politics; and (4) Enthusiasm and initiative of rural women has to improve.

Suggestions and alternatives for Beijing women’s participation in politics

Socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics is not only a required material basis, reasonable structure, and a sound legal and ideal mechanism, but also needs mutual progress and development of relationships between men and women. Therefore, in order to improve the ability of women to participate in politics, these points should be emphasized.

First, improve the rate of women's participation in politics.

Second, the key thrust of Women’s Federation both in policies and actions should focus on intermediate groups.

Third, unremittingly reduce the gap between urban and rural areas, so as to promote the level of rural women’s participation in politics.

Fourth, implementing Marxism Women-Theories and The Basic State Policy of Gender Equality, and improving the ability of women to participate in decision-making.

Fifth, to boost, strengthen and improve education and training for all levels of women's groups.

Sixth, advocacy for women to take part in professional social organizations.

Seventh, taking full advantage of media and reporting positive images of women’s participation in politics.  

(Source: / Translated by

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