Last year TOL editorialized on the halting progress of women politicians in our coverage region and noted the surprisingly good showing by women in the elections to the Czech parliament.

In a late but sincere appreciation of the 8 March International Women’s Day – once a big holiday in many communist countries and still celebrated in Russia – I thought it would be instructive to see how the Czech women MPs were getting on.

Our editorial suggested that while the proportion women in the post-communist world’s parliaments has been slowly rising, they remain woefully under-represented in high legislative positions and in government than in many Western European countries.

An argument can be made that this is still the case in the new-ish Czech government and parliament:

Number of women in the cabinet: Zero.

Number of women committee chairs in the lower house of Parliament: 3 of 17;
… in the Senate: 1 of 8.

Women make up 22 percent of the members in the lower chamber and 19 percent of the Senate.

Looking at the makeup of the most powerful committees in each house, in the lower house women are not doing too badly: they are strongly over-represented in the European affairs and foreign affairs committees, and six sit on the 30-member defense and security committee. And, no surprise, women are a majority on the “soft” social policy committee, although only about a third of the science/education/culture/youth-and-physical-fitness group. However, just two of the 30 members of the economic committee are women.

In the Senate the committees remain men’s clubs for the most part. One woman sits on the economy, agriculture, and transport committee; none on foreign affairs and security. Only on the health and social policy committee do they make a good showing.

True, the lower house has a woman speaker and two of the three deputy chairpersons are women. But overall I have the impression that women continue to punch below their weight in the institutions of Czech government, as they do, beyond doubt, in Czech society generally.

Ky Krauthamer

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at Transitions Online. Email: ky.krauthamer@tol.org

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