By Claire Zillman
June 20, 2017

In Sunday’s legislative election, in which President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party (LREM) gained a commanding majority, France elected a record number of women to parliament.

Of the 577 newly elected lawmakers, 223 are women, a number that easily eclipses the previous record of 155. With women now holding 38.6% of the National Assembly seats, France has leapfrogged to 17th place on the world ranking of female parliamentary representation, skipping over countries like Britain and Germany.

Women’s success in the election was due, in part, to LREM’s decision to field a gender-balanced candidate list. In France, party funding is limited if women don’t constitute at least 49% of candidates, but some parties still fail to put women forward. And even when they do, women often stand in constituencies where they have little chance of winning. In that regard, LREM’s list of candidates was somewhat revolutionary, since it gave women the opportunity to run in elections they could actually win.

Despite this milestone, French politics is far from a gender equality utopia. For example: Last month, 17 current or former female ministers—including IMF head and former French finance minister Christine Lagarde—signed a letter stating they would no longer be silent about sexual harassment in politics. “Like all women who have entered spheres that up until then were exclusively male,” the letter said, “we have had to fight against sexism.”

Having more women in politics overall could be a powerful force in waging the ongoing battle.

@clairezillman

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