Women In Leadership: Charlotte Minvielle Runs for French National Assembly

Equal Measures 2030 believe that women’s representation and inclusion in politics are not only human rights but instrumental tools to build a society in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Whilst we work with partners to reform political systems and empower young women, we are also very proud to be able to support our Head of Business Development, Charlotte Minvielle, as she enters politics and strives to deliver a more just, and equal world.

Charlotte Minvielle’s Campaign for the Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale

Q. How did you get to be the leader and politician you are today ? 

I’m French and also became British 3 years ago, I grew up in Paris and also lived in San Francisco for a few years as a child. My family always talked about politics and provided me with strong social justice values. I moved to London 15 years ago to do a Masters at Kings College in International Relations and then at London School of Economics in NGOs and Development. I then started my career working in Business Development in the international development and human rights sector for organisations such as War Child, Save the Children and WaterAid. I’m also a Trustee for the organisation Pan Intercultural Arts that works on arts for social change in the UK. I see my current involvement in politics as the continuation of my professional and personal commitments.

Q. How important is the 2022 French National Assembly election? 

It’s fundamental. Even though we have a Presidential system where the election of the President gets a lot of attention and a bigger voter turn out, the Parliamentary elections are actually the most important ones. They determine who will lead the government, and people get to elect who will represent them to vote on policies, laws and budgets that will shape the future of the country. Most importantly, there is a real opportunity in this election, which doesn’t often happen, to not give the current center-right President a majority.

Q. What do you stand for?

I stand for environmental values. With the IPCC report, a group of experts working on the environment, telling us that we have 3 years to act to reverse the current trend of global warming, it’s impossible not to act on this issue. I also stand for social justice and ensuring we have a society that protects people who need support and that our economy and taxation system has the interest of the majority of our citizens at heart. And finally, I stand for equality. Gender equality, antiracism, equality for the LGBTQ+ community and for people with disabilities. There’s a lot to do to ensure our social norms change and countries make progress on gender equality as our SDG Gender Index shows. It’s critical to bring these concerns up the political agenda for systemic level changes.

Q. What sparked your interest in running and entering politics?  

I have always been active and interested in politics, being a member of French and British political parties, and being a bit of a political news geek. I listen to the French radios France Info or France Inter in the morning and the UK’s Channel 4 news in the evening if I’m in. However, I’d say it was after being inspired a couple of years ago by some women in politics such as Alice Coffin, Raphaelle Remy-Leleu, and Sandrine Rousseau who embodied my environmental and feminist values, that I decided to become more active and got elected as Co-Secretary of the French Green Party in the UK about a year ago. After that, the opportunity to stand to be a Member of Parliament representing French people living in the Northern Europe constituency, came quite quickly. I hadn’t imagined standing as a candidate in these elections but here we are.

Q. What challenges have you faced in running? 

It’s important to be honest about the fact that running a political campaign is very demanding and can be hard to combine with your personal and professional life. I haven’t had much time to spend with friends and family in the past few months and I’ve been incredibly lucky to work for an organization and with colleagues who have been very supportive during this challenging period of time. I also had to ensure I brought everyone on board with me internally when we did an alliance of all the parties on the left which wasn’t a given in the beginning but worked out really well in the end. And I had to face quite a lot of attacks and caricatures of our policies from political opponents which is to be expected, but it’s a different thing when you’re living it from the inside. Having said that, you learn a lot on a range of topics and on how to communicate your ideas, you get to meet people you could represent and listen to their stories and concerns, you build strong bonds with your campaign team, and you get the chance to speak up about your values, proposals, and vision.

Q. What changes do you think can and should be made to get more competent feminist women involved in politics? 

I think it’s essential to actively identify, encourage and support more women to stand whenever we see they’ve got the interest and potential. I don’t think I would have stood in this election if I hadn’t had the support of several people from my party who told me that I had the competency to do it and that they would support me all along the way. My party also provided a training just for women who were thinking of standing in the election, which was run by women from the party who had already taken part in elections, and who gave honest advice and responded to questions we all had. We also have a parity law in France which requires political parties to present 50% of women for elections or else they get fined. My party’s policy is to not just present 50% of women overall but to have 50% of women in the most winnable seats. This makes a big difference. We need both institutional support and changes as well as sisterhood and solidarity.   

If representation is a rights issue, why are women still critically underrepresented? 

By Maxine Betteridge-Moes

“Leadership is a means, not an end,” wrote the feminist activist Srilatha Batliwala, an India-based scholar with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. With this statement in mind, and in order to make sustainable progress on gender equality by 2030, we must not only fix the system that holds women back from positions of power and authority, but also ensure that women that do arrive to these leadership positions can hold onto their authority and exercise their power to achieve social transformation for generations to come.  

The 2022 SDG Gender Index measures women’s leadership and representation across 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Of the 56 indicators used to measure gender equality in the Index, four indicators directly measure aspects of women’s leadership, namely: women in parliament, women in ministerial posts, women in science and technology, and women in climate change leadership. In its second edition, the Index measures progress over time and has evolved into an even more useful tool for advocates to hold their governments to account in achieving gender equality.  

Alison Holder, the director of Equal Measures 2030 says the Index shows that while some countries have made significant progress on women’s representation in recent years, a persistent lack of gender data masks disparities across different sectors and groups of women.  

“If you dig into the Index, there is a mixed picture in terms of progress on women’s representation,” she said. “We have to celebrate progress where it’s happening, but there isn’t one single trend or story we can draw about women’s leadership from the Index.”   

“It’s the system’s problem”

Women’s representation and feminist leadership are two important concepts for gender equality, but they are not one in the same. While women’s representation is easier to count and measure through data and statistics, feminist leadership considers how power is executed and decisions are made. As champions of grassroots feminist leadership themselves, many of EM2030’s partners have found ways to redefine, value, use, share and distribute power.  

“One of the challenges is that the focus is usually on fixing the woman rather than fixing the problem,” explained Emily Maranga, the program manager at GROOTS Kenya. “So we use the power of our collective to carry out advocacy and encourage women to take up leadership. Because if the leadership spaces are open and women are not taking them up, that’s not the woman’s problem. It’s the system’s problem.” 

The volatility of women’s leadership

The best available data in terms of measuring women’s leadership is their political representation in parliament and senior government roles. According to the Index, the world on average made significant progress on women’s political representation between 2015 and 2020: 90 countries made ‘very fast’ progress on increasing women’s representation in parliament and 78 countries made ‘very fast’ progress on increasing women’s representation in senior government roles.  

“We can’t ignore, however, that this progress comes from a very low base and the world is still far from where it needs to be to meet the target of gender parity in political participation,” said Holder. In 2020, just 26.4% of parliamentary seats and 24.7% of senior government roles globally were held by women. The volatility of these statistics also can’t be ignored, as women’s representation can fluctuate widely depending on the political agenda of ruling parties. For example, the Index shows that between 2015 and 2020, several countries including Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mexico saw major leaps forward in the percentage of women in senior government positions, while several countries including Estonia, Slovenia and Poland fell back significantly in the wrong direction. The result is an overall global grade of ‘very poor’ for these two indicators.  

Source: 2022 SDG Gender Index, Equal Measures 2030

Other indicators on women in science and technology and on women in climate change delegations paint an even more mixed picture. As of 2018, only 31% of science and technology research posts were held by women, and on average, the world had made ‘no progress’ on increasing the share of women since 2015. In terms of women’s representation in climate change delegations, Holder describes a “tale of two halves”. While 55% of countries made ‘some’ or ‘fast’ progress on increasing women’s participation in climate change leadership between 2015 and 2020, a large proportion of countries (41%) moved in the wrong direction on this measure and reduced the proportion of women in their climate change delegations. At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, the global summit to accelerate action on climate change, women accounted for, on average, 33% of government delegates, just as they did in 2019 and 2020.  

Persistent data gaps

The increased participation and presence of women in politics and public life is a vital step towards advancing gender equality – but it is not the only factor. Women often encounter hierarchical and exclusionary power structures in decision-making spaces that undermine their active participation and engagement. Transforming this structural context is key for their political empowerment and authority. 

Data on women’s representation in parliament and senior government positions is relatively easy to find, but it indicates that women in these formal political spaces come from more privileged backgrounds. Comparable data on women’s representation at the subnational level is scarce, and for nearly half of all countries, sub-national data does not exist at all. Most countries do not collect data on women’s representation in the private sector and in NGOs, which is needed to provide a clearer picture of women’s voice and influence across sectors. Data is also missing across all sectors on the participation and experience of other groups including ethnic or racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, women with disabilities and others, to arrive in leadership positions. 

“The Index report expresses the importance of having better gender data that allows us to measure intersecting inequalities to look at the situation for women on average, but crucially the situation for different groups of women to ensure equality and justice,” said Holder.  

The road ahead 

Even as most countries worldwide seem to be making some advances on women’s representation, the SDG Gender Index sounds the alarm at its slow pace, its limited scale, and its profound fragility. It’s still too soon to gauge the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls and women around the world, and future humanitarian crises will further expose and intensify the severe inequalities laid bare in the Index. What matters now is what we do next. 

The first step for women’s rights advocates like EM2030 is to continue promoting the visibility of female politicians and decision-makers across public and private sectors, and collecting and using disaggregated data to plug persistent gaps around women’s leadership and representation. Donors must invest more in data monitoring and accountability across all sectors, fund grassroots organizations and invest in more training programs on political systems, women’s right to participation, and their roles in decision-making. Finally, governments can promote quota systems to help bring women into political spheres, use international frameworks to bring diverse women into emergency responses, conflict prevention, and peacebuilding, invest in structural and legal reforms that provide women with social and legal protections, and finally, call for gender-balanced decision-making bodies.  

The road ahead for gender equality, and particularly for women’s representation and feminist leadership will undoubtedly have its bumps. But as Lina Abirafeh, the former Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women puts it: “Right now, we need to defend and reclaim our space, our voice and our words. And then we can move forward.”