While women have made great strides in politics, there are still some glass ceilings to be shattered among these are women’s access to local offices and particularly their election as mayors.
The first woman mayor recorded is believed to be Susanna Madora Salter of the United States who served as mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887. Since then women have been elected as mayors in cities around the world - but mostly only since the 1970s. Progress on this front has been very slow: More than a century later from the election of the first woman mayor only 18.4% (249 of the 1.351) mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000 are women (January 2014); Only 13 out of the largest 100 cities in the U.S had women mayors (13%) and only one of the nation's 10 largest cities is run by a woman. The number of women mayors in some other countries is still even more limited.
Today, the countries with the highest proportion of women mayors include Mauritius (40%), New Zealand (26%), Serbia (26%), and Latvia (25%) and with 500 women mayors and vice-mayors, China holds the record for the country with the most women mayors.
It is notable that women’s occupancy of mayoral positions across the globe has been less than their presence in parliaments and there seems to be a greater lag in women’s access to executive branch positions. Perhaps voters are more likely to expect them on the council, but there are concerns and stereotypes about women taking charge, being a leader and being able to manage a bureaucracy and a big budget. Or perhaps voters aren't reluctant to elect women to executive office but not enough women run and it’s not because they don't have the credentials or the background. Women make up 51% of the population and are receiving higher levels of education at a faster pace than their male counterparts so the issue is why is that not sufficient to get them to run for office.
In this e-discussion we look forward to hearing your opinion on any of the following:
- What are the biggest challenges facing women’s access to mayoral offices?
- Do you know of any mechanisms/ good practices that have been installed to foster women’s access to mayoral office?
- Do you think there are any advantages to having a woman mayor? Are cities with woman mayors more responsive to the needs and rights of women?
We invite our users to read exclusive iKNOW Politics interviews with women Mayors from around the world:
 1893: election of first woman in the British empire; 1918 Russia; 1928 first in Latin America (Brazil); 1930s: Philippines, Canada and Australia; 1950s:Turkey