It’s time for an issue on women. That was the verdict reached by akzente’s editorial team at an all-female meeting held a few months ago. With the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Germany on 12 November, there seemed no better occasion to take stock of how things stand with regard to gender equality around the world. What progress has been made towards emancipation during this dramatic period in which so much has happened – two devastating world wars, but also international cooperation on an unprecedented scale; extreme poverty, but also unparalleled prosperity and huge technological advances? What role did women play in all these momentous developments, we asked ourselves?
And we all quickly agreed that the issue of women’s rights belongs at the heart of any analysis of recent history and current affairs. In the field of development policy, in particular, we know that without women, there is less progress. Without female participation in decision-making processes, there is less development. But that was where the consensus among the women on the editorial team ended. Some team members were of the opinion that equal participation is a basic right and, as such, an aspirational goal in itself, while the others maintained that women in positions of power have no inherent value in themselves. They have to make a difference and act more fairly, maintaining higher social and moral standards. Do they? And if so, how?
The more we discussed, the more exciting and relevant we found the topic. And the more we argued among ourselves. Especially since it quickly became clear that little information is available from an international perspective. We therefore asked German-American scholar Malliga Och to cast an analytical eye on the issue of gender around the world. In this issue’s cover story, she looks at where women currently hold top political posts and why Western Europe offers women the best chances of embarking on a career in politics. She also explores whether or not women take a different approach to governing. One woman who knows all about this is Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile. In our interview, she reveals what advice she would give women looking to enter politics: primarily, do not let your guard down and keep your eyes and ears open.
In the spirit of greater openness, we have also taken this opportunity to cast a critical eye over our use of language in akzente. The aim is – and on this point we all once again agreed – to use modern and inclusive language, but not to be stifled by political correctness. A difficult balancing act, but one that we strive to perform well.
More than anything, we hope that you all – men and women alike – will find the topic of gender rewarding and that you will enjoy reading this issue.