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WOMEN AND POWER : Where Do World's Women Fare Best?

June 29, 1993|Robin Wright

"A nation striving to be recognized as equal among other nations can ill afford not to recognize women as equal among men."

Those 20th-Century thoughts were actually uttered in the late 19th by Theodore Herzl at the First Zionist Congress. But on the eve of the 21st Century, only a few countries are anywhere close to achieving gender parity in power structures.

Available data indicates that women fare best in Scandinavia. Roughly one-third or more of parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Denmark are female. But the standard does not apply to all of Europe. Margaret Thatcher was prime minister in Britain and Edith Cresson in France, yet less than 7% of their respective parliaments were female.

Where do women fare worst? The title is up for grabs among many states, mainly in the developing world, where men have a distinct edge in everything from education to employment. Women have the lowest share of the work force, for example, in North Africa and the Arab states.

Yet in some categories, women are better off in the developing world. According to the 1993 U.N. Development Report, for example, parliaments in developing countries have a higher representation of female members (12%) than in industrialized states (9%).

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