Friday, December 14, 2012

(S)Heros: Afghanistani Women in Parliament

            Despite there being rigid quotas that require women to make up at least 25% of parliament in Afghanistan, women do not have the opportunity to fully represent the constituents they are elected to represent. While the 68 seats reserved for women have been filled every election that the quota has been in place, women are still discriminated against and treated horribly by the other members and leaders of parliament. In fairness, many members simply fear the wrath of the Taliban, which has attempted to assassinate powerful female representatives. But there are signs of progress as women like Najia Zewari have been selected to sit on the High Peace Council, which deals with peace negotiations, and there has been no backlash yet from the Taliban, suggesting that they have accepted her membership on that committee.
            Unfortunately however, women still face many everyday challenges in parliament. Sometimes in order to be heard, they have to physically pull the microphone away from the MP, who ignores their turns to speak. Women in parliament in Afghanistan also face violence and intimidation daily. But on the bright side, due to the hard work of its female politicians, Afghanistan was one of the first countries with quota laws that has elected a woman outside of the quota. This is a monumental achievement that demonstrates that women in Afghanistan may one day be able to represent their constituents with far less pushback from those who adhere to strict cultural and social norms.


Women Lawyers: The Double Bind in Action

The law profession is a highly gendered institution in several ways; for example, women are currently concentrated in the lower ranks, and less than 25% of law firm partners are women. As of 2011, 31.9 % of all lawyers were women, which is less than a third. A website tracking women in law estimates that it will take more than a woman lawyer’s lifetime to achieve equality to men in the same profession.
            Female lawyers live the double bind everyday as they are required to be assertive, confident, and emotionless, but are still under scrutiny for whether or not they appear feminine. One study of women lawyer’s job satisfaction found that while “women are less satisfied than men with their level of responsibility, recognition for their work, chances for advancement, policies of their organization, salary, and control over amount and manner of work,” that they still reported the same level of job satisfaction as their male colleagues. Thus even though women are less happy with their work circumstances as lawyers, they are still happy with their jobs.
The good news is that because women only recently began entering the law profession in large numbers, the institution will likely improve for them over time. For example, although less than 25% of law firm partners are women, it is understandable that law firms would want to attract candidates regardless of gender that still meet the qualifications and experience necessary for such a position. It is likely that as women in the law profession now stay and gain more experience that more women will become qualified for such higher-level positions. Additionally, as more women enter into the management tier, they will hopefully improve conditions for the female lawyers below them. In the meantime, affirmative action laws could be better utilized or created to help ensure that women are receiving fair and equal consideration for advancement opportunities. 
Hull, Kaythleen. 1999. "The Paradox of the Contented Female Lawyer." Law and Society Review Vol. 33 Issue 2.