Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Challenges of Being a Woman in the Political Sphere

Women have made significant progress in today’s political arena. In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first woman in U.S. history to win a major party’s nomination, which is significant especially when you consider the U.S.’s precarious history of women’s rights.

Just under 100 years ago, women in the United States won the right to vote. As the Central Asia Institute notes, there are still women alive today who remember what it was like before women won the right to vote in 1920 and the violence that occurred in order for women to earn that right.

Although women's progress is apparent in the political sphere, they make up only a small fraction of those employed in major political positions. Women make up only 19 percent of all members of Congress, less than 25 percent of all state legislators, and 12 percent of the nation's 50 governors. And although Hillary Clinton made significant progress by becoming the first woman in U.S. history to win a major party nomination, there have been no women elected to the highest political office in our nation.

Compared to other jobs in America, the relatively low numbers of women involved in high level government positions are even more shocking. Women make up 96.8 percent of all preschool and kindergarten teachers, 89.4 percent of all registered nurses, and are 70 percent of all waiters and waitresses.

Even the clergy has more gender representation than the federal government at 20.6 percent.

"There's some real perspective [there]," Danielle Kurtzleben tells NPR. "For one thing, a substantial chunk of the clergy has to be men. Several large American religious denominations, including Roman Catholicism, which accounts for one in five U.S. adults, for the most part do not allow women to be ordained. Lawmaking of course has no such restrictions, but Congress' women's share is still stuck where it is among clergy."

Our country's rank for women's political representation is 78th in the world, according to recent reports, and many are worried that the issue will only continue to worsen as the political ambition gap between the genders has become wider. But why is this?

Americans have warmed up to the potential idea of having a female president--a drastic change from decades previous. In the 1960s, Gallup polls indicated that only half of Americans said they would vote for a woman. In 2015, that number had risen significantly, where 92 percent of respondents said that they would vote for a "generally well-qualified" women from their party.

It's not that there is a lack of positions available or that women are under qualified. In fact, as the educational website Find Your Context indicates, career opportunities in public service are vast.

The issue, it seems, is that not enough women are putting themselves out there to become leaders in the first place. A study performed by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox entitled Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics highlights this particular phenomenon.

As Lawless and Fox argue, there are seven main barriers that U.S. women face when considering a career in public service, and especially high level government positions. They conclude that:

Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment to be highly competitive and biased against their gender. Hillary Clinton's and Sarah Palin's recent presidential bids aggravated these perceptions that women face in the political arena. Women are much less likely to believe they are qualified to hold political office. Many potential female candidates believe themselves to be less competitive, less confident, and less likely to take risks than their male colleagues. Women react more negatively to many of the aspects of modern campaigns. Women are less likely to be urged to run for public office. Women, by and large, are still expected to be responsible for household tasks and family care.

There's evidence of this on both sides of the political spectrum. In 2014, many female public officials told NPR's Tamara Keith that they had to be urged multiple times to run for office before taking that first step.

"You need to be asked," Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellsperman said. "Women are still not likely to just take that step on their own."

Likewise, the lack of women's representation only serves to discourage other women from running for office. In what has been coined as "the woman effect," many have found that electing a woman to a major office later results in a 2 to 3 percent increase in women's representation in the next election cycle.

There's also a difference in women's representation depending on which major political party you subscribe to. On the whole, women are more likely to be represented on Democratic tickets than on Republican tickets.

"A root cause of the gap is that Democratic women who are potential congressional candidates tend to fit comfortably with the liberal ideology of their party's primary voters, while many potential female Republican candidates do not adhere to the conservative ideology of their primary voters," New York Times author Derek Willis wrote.

Still, Congress is far more diverse than it once was, and women in particular have made impressive strides over the past century. Hopefully in the years to come, diversity and inclusion will continue to increase.

Posted by DanikaK at June 2, 2017 12:51 PM
Comments
Comment #416901

Thank you for yet another well-researched article. I might quibble with your omission of the word “vice” when discussing Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign, but I am sure it was a simple oversight.

Anyway, it is important to do what we can to ensure every woman who has the skills, ideas and motivation to lead can do so. Watchblog used to have a rich array of well-informed women commenting and writing articles. However, some people decided to treat their comments differently than the comments of men and after a while, these women seem to have left for greener pastures where their ideas are critiqued on their merits rather than the $ex of whoever wrote them.

Unfortunately, I predict that your concerns regarding the underrepresentation of women in politics will fall on deaf conservative ears. We already know what the responses will be:

The comments will include standard repetitions of the straw man whereby the Left allegedly construed mere opposition to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as overt sexism. The fact that this actually describes how many Republicans decided to deflect criticism of Sarah Palin’s 2008 VP candidacy far more accurately will be ignored. Throw in a castigation of transwomen who wish to be treated the same as ceisgender people, and there will be no turning back this conservative from his avenue of delusion. Soon enough, Weary Willie will insist that if Hillary Clinton were not a woman, none of Watchblog’s liberal commenters would vote for her. (My never having voted for her in my entire life will be summarily ignored).

Likewise, there will be another boilerplate statement saying non-sexist Americans are sick and tired of being accused of sexism, but sound evidence that said Americans are as clean and pure as wind driven snow when it comes to gender equality as alleged will not be forthcoming.

Instead, the issue will be cast as an absolute moral issue and we will be told that because being a sexist is an undesirable personal attribute, it will be assumed that said person is incapable of prejudice or discrimination in this arena simply because of the distress the person feels whenever they are accused. Of course, this ignores the fact that no person sexist; at worst they can only serve as a vessel for sexist ideas and memes. Unfortunately, many such mind viruses still pervade in society. I am not going to saddle up any high horses and claim to be free of these contagions. All I assert is that I at least acknowledge the situation for what it is.

Ultimately, we’ll hear assertions that 21st century women and men have the same opportunities and that any differences in outcome cannot be described as the result of discrimination or prejudice. Ultimately, this stems from the fallacious dogma that only the Federal Government is capable of coercion. Seeing that the law has been mostly purged of clauses explicitly discriminating against women over the decades, today’s conservative feels secure saying this. After all, they think that if the discrimination isn’t codified into law, it must not exist.

In the end, this sort of analysis is demonstrably myopic as it fails to examine the nongovernmental factors that impact people. Fortunately, you have taken the time to examine some of these:

Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment to be highly competitive and biased against their gender. Hillary Clinton’s and Sarah Palin’s recent presidential bids aggravated these perceptions that women face in the political arena. Women are much less likely to believe they are qualified to hold political office. Many potential female candidates believe themselves to be less competitive, less confident, and less likely to take risks than their male colleagues. Women react more negatively to many of the aspects of modern campaigns. Women are less likely to be urged to run for public office. Women, by and large, are still expected to be responsible for household tasks and family care.

So, it seems that people do not make decisions in a vacuum. If we build a culture which sends the wrong message to young girls, they will not grow up to be strong & confident women ready to step into leadership roles. As I said before, harmful memes still pervade in society and while it may be foolish to try to eradicate them all completely, it will benefit everyone if we can at least discuss how to organize our society such that they do the least harm.

We’ve come a long way over the past few decades and women still continue to flourish and grow as they continue to catch up with men in terms of wage prospects. Still, there will always be more work to do as implied by the charge left to us by our founders “to form a more perfect union”. It is an endless project, but it is a responsibility definitely worth undertaking.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 2, 2017 2:24 PM
Comment #416903

So, now I’m a sexist also? Let’s see, you must be subscribing to the liberal mindset that goes, “If I say it, it will be true.”, yes?

I wonder what you people would do if you really met someone you describe here. What would you do if you actually spent time with someone with the characteristics you heap onto those you disagree with? I’ll bet you will never actually meet anyone who mimics the traits you routinely attribute to conservatives.

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 2, 2017 4:36 PM
Comment #416910

Considering how the left treats conservative women candidates, can you blame them for feeling that way?

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 2, 2017 6:34 PM
Comment #416919

DNC data guru denies Hillary Clinton’s claim she “inherited nothing” http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBBPTrJ?ocid=st

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 2, 2017 10:39 PM
Comment #416924

She can’t remember the sniper fire.

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 3, 2017 1:53 AM
Comment #416925

(cough cough)

Posted by: Weary Willie at June 3, 2017 1:53 AM
Comment #416939
So, now I’m a sexist also?/blockquote>

I do not consider the specific description of your previous comments that I included above to be an accusation of sexism. Why do you?

I wonder what you people would do if you really met someone you describe here. What would you do if you actually spent time with someone with the characteristics you heap onto those you disagree with? I’ll bet you will never actually meet anyone who mimics the traits you routinely attribute to conservatives.

One of the reasons I participate on Watchblog is so I can have conservations that would be difficult to have face to face. Here, we can discuss issues frankly and call a spade a spade without having to worry as much about hurting another’s feelings.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 3, 2017 3:15 PM
Comment #416983

“Compared to other jobs in America, the relatively low numbers of women involved in high level government positions are even more shocking. Women make up 96.8 percent of all preschool and kindergarten teachers, 89.4 percent of all registered nurses, and are 70 percent of all waiters and waitresses.”

That proves nothing other than women choose certain careers more often than men, and choose others less often. In other words, it’s a choice they make.

Posted by: dbs at June 5, 2017 6:54 AM
Comment #417004

It also helps the women if they aren’t completely delusional…

http://observer.com/2017/05/hillary-clinton-third-party-voters-loss-excuses/

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 5, 2017 10:45 AM
Comment #417007
a choice they make

A choice that is not made in a vacuum, but under the coercion and duress placed on women by our culture and society.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 5, 2017 11:21 AM
Comment #417008

What coercion and duress, Warped? All the women I know are happy in their CHOSEN fields. Granted there are a few who may be in the predicament you are referring to but like I stated only a FEW.

Posted by: Rich KAPitan at June 5, 2017 11:36 AM
Comment #417011

Warren, you are making an assumption…

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 5, 2017 12:31 PM
Comment #417016

My assumptions are no less reasonable than dbs’ assumption that women’s choices are completely voluntary.

Posted by: Warren Porter at June 5, 2017 3:29 PM
Comment #417021

Women have the same choices as you do Warped. Just that some can’t do the same job as men do.

Posted by: Rich KAPitan at June 5, 2017 4:27 PM
Comment #417023

Once again our Buddy Warren reveals his warped brainwashing regarding women and choice. Please link to all the lawsuits filed by women being denied choice.

I feel sorry for the poor living in neighborhoods that have government sponsored poverty policies. Politicians in some cities have no desire to allow the poor to have a decent education. They foster legacy poverty and are aided and abetted by many on the Left. Keep them in the ghettos, keep them from getting a good education, keep them from the job market, keep them dependent upon government for every need in their life and one will have a Democrat voter for life.

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