WR: What exactly is the Leadership Index trying to find out about women in government?
GY: What we’re trying to measure is how much formal and how much enacted power women hold. If you’re the president of the country, you have a certain amount of power. If you’re in parliament, you have a legislative power. If you’re a minister, you may or may not have budget power. Those are your formal powers. But what’s really important in the gender space is the informal or enacted powers: How do people perceive you? Do you use your power? Are you an effective leader in your field?
WR: Which countries are getting it right?
GY: It’s easy to point to the Nordic countries. Part of it is they have the laws and legislation in place. Part of it is they had quotas. Part of it is they’re a welfare state and they work a lot on trusting government. Most of the countries I look at have either a commitment that’s a quota or a commitment like Canada that comes down from the leader. And so [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s getting it right, or [French President Emmanuel] Macron is getting it right, because they’re saying, “I as the leader am committed to appointing this many women.”
WR: What surprised you most about the research?
GY: I think the biggest surprise was how much data did not exist -- that there is so much that is simply not disaggregated by sex. For example: In the United States, we do not disaggregate the judiciary sector by sex. So you can call up court systems and national people, but they don’t naturally do that.
WR: What change do you hope to effect with this index?
GY: What we’re hoping the index will do will tell you which levers to move that will promote gender equality. You can separate out the indicators, hopefully change a policy and see which one’s going to actually end up with more women leaders. And so I think using it to assess and do some criteria for donors, investors and philanthropists will be very important.
WR: Your project’s goal is to get to global gender parity in governments by 2050. How likely is that?
GY: I do think we’ll get to the 2050 goal. It’s far enough. It’s ambitious enough that it’s not going to be easy. And it’s going to require a huge cultural change as much a systemic shift. But I have to be optimistic. And I have to believe that we’re going to get there. Because otherwise I’m not sure we can develop the solutions or the creativity to get there.