and how it negatively impacts girls' political ambitions.
Women have been unrepresented in different sectors of our society. Unfortunately, even more women are underrepresented in elected and appointed positions. Our country has praised men for their accomplishments by mentioning them in history books, giving them their own holiday and electing them for President. When was the last time you celebrated a holiday of a female who has accomplished ordinary things? Our country has been changed by not only men, but women. Historical figures such as Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Alice Paul, Hillary Clinton, Ruby Bridges, Michelle Obama and more have shaped our society in many ways. The only government holiday that celebrates women is Mother’s Day. There are other accomplishments by women that should be celebrated. Women’s contributions to our nation’s history and democracy are rendered nearly invisible in the classroom and in public discourse. Lead researchers on gender bias in classrooms note: “When girls do not see themselves in the pages of textbooks… our daughters learn that to be female is to be an absent partner in the development of our nation.” Female political figures act as role model to girls of all ages and backgrounds.
According to research conducted by American University, women are as likely to win political office as men. The problem is women are not running for office. For many girls and women not having as many female politicians affects their career goals. Women and girls are encouraged to pursue careers as teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Women receive less parental support to pursue a career in politics from both mothers and fathers than men. Parents support their daughters when running for office at school. But when it comes to the political world, they do not want them running.
Five factors that contribute to the gender gap in political ambition among college-aged women:
- Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career path.
- From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men.
- Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning.
- Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office – from anyone.
- Young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.
(Source: American University, 2013)
We have had progress in the area of women representing in our government, but the numbers are still low. As of March 2015, women hold 20 seats in the U.S. Senate and comprise just 19 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives; less than a quarter of state legislators are women and just six women governors lead states.
The government is the core of our country, who creates and votes on laws. If we have only men voting on laws that pertain to women and girls, these laws will not be effective or just. Having more women in political office will not only lead to a more representative government, but many studies have shown that the presence of more in women in legislatures makes a significant difference in terms of the policy that gets passed.
Women have been a big part of social movements and change throughout our country's history. The Civil Rights movement would have not been successful if it was not for the women who stood with the NAACP. Female historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Amelia Boynton, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, and more contributed a lot to this movement. Women of color have recently contributed a huge amount of their talent to the Black Lives Matter Campaign. Women have always been a strong core of our country, whether or not they have received recognition - but our power cannot be fully realized until women are in political office.
Countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark,Netherlands and Germany have great representation of female figures in political office. These countries highly recruit females to represent their government. Some of the countries even requires positive quotas, where half of the candidates are women.
- Women are highly committed to promoting national and local policies that address the socio-economic and political challenges facing women, children and disadvantaged groups.
- Women are particularly effective in promoting honest government. Countries where women are supported as leaders and at the ballot box have a correspondingly low level of corruption.
- Women are strongly committed to peace building, as they often disproportionately suffer the consequences of armed conflict. Reconstruction and reconciliation efforts take root more quickly and are more sustainable when women are involved. By helping women become participating members of a democracy, one can look to mitigate conflicts or stop conflicts before they begin.
- Women are strongly linked to positive developments in education, infrastructure and health standards at the local level. Where rates of gender development and empowerment are higher, human rates of development and standards of living are also higher.
- Share newsletters and articles about how women are underrepresented in politics.
- Lead a discussion at school about women's underrepresentation in politics, and the ways in which it affects you, your peers, and your community.
- Think about ways you and your peers can improve women's representation in politics.
- Write your government officials about how women lacking representation in your community is affecting you.
- Bring a female political official to speak at your school or community event.
- Interview a female who is involved in politics for your school paper or blog
- Run for student government in school, or leadership positions in general - be the change!
- Support the campaigns of women running for political office.
Check out these sources for more information:
- ”Why Does the US Still Have So Few Women in Office?” by Steven Hill, March 7, 2014, The Nation.
- "Women in Politics" (documentary) via MAKERS, Produced and Directed by Grace Lee, Produced by Rory Kennedy
- Close Up Foundation, which "informs, inspires, and empowers young people to exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy."
- The Teach a Girl to Lead Project, Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics
- Huffington Posts' articles on women in politics
- "Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young American's Political Ambition," by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox, March 2013, American University School of Public Affairs
- The Girls in Politics Initiative ( (“GIP”) is a program created and administered by the Political Institute for Women. The GIP programs introduce girls ages 8 to 17 to politics, policy, the work of the United States Congress, parliamentary governments and the work of the United Nations.
- "A National Call to Action: Teaching Young People About Women's Public Leadership and Promoting Public Leadership for Girls," Rutgers Center for American Women in Politics
By Zaniya L. (17), 2015