Women in Politics (Week 12)

As of  2015, 104 women, 76 of which are democrat and 28 republican, hold seats in the United States Congress. There are 535 seats available, meaning that women make up 19.4% of the Congress as a whole 535 members; 20% in the Senate, 19.3% House of Representatives. Not to mention the four female delegates who represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands in the House.

According to the majority of Americans today, women are just as capable of holding political leadership positions as men are. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, revealed that most Americans find women indistinguishable from men when it comes to key leadership traits such as intellect and capacity for creativity and innovation. Most participants admitted that women have a stronger inclination for compassion and organization. And yet with all those great attributes there is still not a great representation of women in key leadership positions.

Voting play a key role into getting women elected and passing laws that benefit the advancement of females and minorities as a whole. A 2008 study conducted by Harvard University revealed that women vote at rates equal to and sometimes exceeding the percentage of men. Despite the heavy involvement of women, it seems as if their votes favor men in elections.

Take for example the last presidential election; Trump had a greater number of white female supporters than any other candidate. Although this last election was more than unorthodox, we saw a competitive race between the typical hetero white male, and once favored white female; a dynamic that mirrors countless congressional races since the first woman won a congressional seat. It seems as if more often than not, white men dominate and rally support of many factions, often stealing the female white vote from white female candidates. Why is that?

Pew research findings show that the electorate and corporate America are just not ready to put more women in top leadership positions. Although there is an inherit double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of either politics or business, roughly four-in-ten Americans recognize and abide by this social normality.

As a result, the public is conflicted on whether, despite the monumental advancements of women in government and in the workplace as whole, the imbalance in corporate America will change in the foreseeable future. Out of 1,835 pollers, 53% believe men will continue to dominate executive positions in business in the foreseeable future; while 44% say it is only a matter of time before as many women are in top executive positions as men. However, Americans are less doubtful when it comes to politics: 73% expect to see a female president in their lifetime.

In addition to double standards, men are more active in government at a localized level then women. The Harvard study revealed that men make more financial contributions to campaigns more often than women, and give higher amounts. Men are more likely to serve on a local governing board such as city councils. It was reported that men are significantly more likely to contact their elected representative to express a policy opinion or ask for constituent service, and are more likely to join organizations and interest groups with political affiliations. Not to mention, men are much more likely to run for office themselves. Men continue to dominate electoral politics as candidates and officials. This pattern doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, especially now that Republicans controls the House, Senate, and Oval office.

The Washington Post reported that last year, when Democrats controlled the Senate, female involvement spiked. Women led a record of nine committees, including male strongholds like the Appropriations Committee, which distributes billions of federal funds, and Intelligence, which oversees the government’s involvement in national and domestic security. Now there are only two female committee chairwomen: Ms. Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. While in the House, five of the 10 elected Republican Party leadership spots are held by women; and only one woman, Michigan Rep. Candice S. Miller leads a committee, House Administration.

Congress is tightly controlled by men with seniority.  Power is administered by these men who have followed a tradition of power which make it hard for to rise in ranks quickly because committee chairmanships do not go to junior members and many women are new members. More than two-thirds of female lawmakers are Democrats, and Democratic women, who overall were elected earlier and in larger numbers than their Republican counterparts, have more longevity. When Democrats lost control, women lost top jobs.

Despite the loss, the next round of elections will be interesting and hopefully rewarding for female law makers. The opening for women leaders seems to be widening despite current setbacks. Women have made significant gains in educational attainment in recent decades, since the 1990s, women have outnumbered men in both college enrollment and college completion rates.  They have better positioned themselves not only for career success but also for leadership positions.

The next election cycle will be crucial but the more people become fed up with government, the more they will get involved.

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