Men vastly outnumber women in politics. Fortunately, public discourse has increased in regards to women’s value and equality in society, thanks to women like Sheryl Sandberg and Emma Watson.
Women are now outnumbering men in achieving post-secondary degrees and nearly equal their numbers in the workforce. This year, Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers in the American workforce, and Millennials will be 75% of the workforce globally by 2025. We are on the cusp of improved equality of men and women, as Millennials are coming of age, and the increased value of women will go hand in hand with this.
Studies show better decisions are made when there are more women at the decision-making table. Young women are striving for and earning leadership positions and career advancement opportunities, and as the Old Boys continue to retire, the glass ceiling will eventually disappear and equal pay for equal work can be achieved.
Why aren’t more women engaged politically?
Misogyny is at the root of women avoiding politics. Appearance is regularly valued over accomplishments by the media, and personal attacks are more cutting and unapologetic in their zeal against women than they are against men.
Margaret Thatcher suffered sexist criticism by those who were too insecure to be led by a strong woman, or just disagreed with her leadership decisions and opinions.
Monica Lewinsky, a 23 year old intern, was publicly shamed relentlessly, its effects continuing to this day, while President Bill Clinton was seemingly forgiven, despite both abusing his position of power and not respecting his marriage vows. Lewinsky was forced to live underground, in a sense, while Clinton’s persona has retained likeability and respect.
A recent study by Sydney University found women who valued traditional gender norms were fearful of a career in politics when reminded of the backlash Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced, though women who were non-conformists became motivated to enter politics.
I attended an annual partisan fundraising event two weeks ago, and it struck me more than it had in the past that the room was full of older white men in suits – the corporate movers and shakers who fund the political party. As I was speaking to a young man, a recent politician, we were interrupted by a Suit who practically ignored my existence, despite wearing heels at a noticeable three inch height. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been overlooked or disregarded by men in the workplace or politics, and unfortunately, it won’t be the last, but it only motivates me to ensure more young people, and young women especially, get politically involved.
Women need to support other women of good character and integrity. This is particularly important in politics, where we have the potential to vastly improve public policy when we are at the table and being heard. There is no need to “play the gender card” to get ahead, as some women in politics have. We simply need to continue to challenge ourselves and each other to better who we are as humans, and as fellow women, wherever we choose to concentrate our efforts professionally and personally.
There is so much we can accomplish when we refuse to be defined by the characterizations the media and others who are currently (they won’t be forever) in politics attempt to place on us.