Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Weighing in on the efficacy of female leadership in government

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Social Justice (Issues related to women)


Source: TH

 Direction: The article throws light on how female leadership in government helps in achieving good governance and gender equality and what is the scenario in India.

 Context: The important takeaway from recent experience and studies is the necessity of overcoming inherent biases and perceptions about female effectiveness in leadership roles.



  • Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand which had women heading their governments, seem to have managed the pandemic much better than their neighbours.
  • The States in the US which have female governors had fewer COVID-19-related deaths because female governors acted more decisively by issuing earlier stay-at-home orders.
  • The above concludes that women leaders are more effective than their male counterparts in times of crisis


Case of India:

  • Women were allowed to vote from 1950 onwards, which is in striking contrast to the experience in the so-called “mature democracies” of the west. For example, women were allowed to vote in the US in 1920, after years of protest.
  • Some charismatic female leaders were/are Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Sushma Swaraj, Mamata Banerjee, and Draupadi Murmu among several others. However, overall figures are depressing.


Reasons are:

  • Poor representation in legislatures: For instance, women constitute just over 14% of the total strength of the 17th Lok Sabha.
    • Best practice: Tiny Rwanda is on the top with a staggering 60% of seats, when it comes to women’s representation in its lower house.
  • The Women’s Reservation Bill is dead: The Bill, first presented to the Lok Sabha in 1996, provided quotas for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
    • Although the Rajya Sabha did pass the bill in 2010, the Lok Sabha and the State legislatures are yet to give their approval.


Importance of female leadership in government:

  • This can be understood by the example of Gram panchayats in India.
  • A study conducted by Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo used the system of mandated reservations (73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1992, reserves 1/3rd of all positions of pradhan for women) to test the effectiveness of female leadership.
  • The study concluded that women pradhans are more likely to invest in women-friendly infrastructure. For example, providing easy access to drinking water.


Way forward for India:

  • Building consensus on women reservation bill.
  • Such quotas have both a short-term (increased female representation in policy making) and long-term (improves perceptions about female effectiveness in leadership roles) impact.
  • This decreases the bias and results in a subsequent increase in the percentage of female politicians contesting and winning elections.


Conclusion: The instrumental importance of promoting more space for women in public policy is an important goal from the perspective of gender equality.


Insta Links:

Women in the Indian political system


Mains Links:

Q. “Though women in post-Independent India have excelled in various fields, the social attitude towards women and the feminist movement has been patriarchal.” Apart from women’s education and women empowerment schemes, what interventions can help change this milieu? (UPSC 2021)