Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

January 14, 2017 11:54 AM

Women Will Get it Done: Women in Politics

Today, women hold more seats in Congress than ever before, but this record number still only accounts for 20% of total seats. Women comprise more than 50% of the general U.S. population, but only hold 25% of seats in state legislatures, 10% of governorships and 12% of mayoral seats for the nation’s 100 largest cities. Women have proven their ability to govern and they are as likely to win races as men are, so the problem isn’t that women can’t win, but that not enough women are running.

Women face different challenges when considering a run for office. Women are less likely to have been socialized to consider politics as a possible career path in the first place and most women don’t want to run for office simply because of the ugliness of politics. Women have to deal with sexism and prejudices that can make the idea of running unappealing even to those who do have the desire—a population which is significantly smaller for woman than men. Studies find a major gender gap when it comes to political ambition: only 37% of women said they had considered running for office, compared to 57% of men. Women don’t want their personal lives subjected to national discussion and many women don’t consider themselves as viable candidates, even if they have the right credentials.

Once women do decide to run, and if they win, they still have distinctive challenges: 42% of female legislators disagreed with the statement “most men in my legislature are supportive of moving women into leadership positions” and 42% disagreed with the statement “the leaders in my legislature are as likely to consult with the women in their legislature as the men when making important decisions.” Politics is still very much an “old boys club” which can be both discouraging and counterproductive to women serving in government.

Our State Houses and Capitols need to be filled with diverse legislatures that reflect the realities of the American citizenry. With the challenges our government is tackling, it is time to take advantage of all of the talent and wisdom that both men and women can bring to the table. To get more women running, society must stop telling its young women that politics is not the place for them and then take advantage of the talents and experiences they bring once women do decide to enter the political arena.

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