A place for women superiority
“Finding Madam President” is the headline in the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section today and that is the same title of an article in the New York Times in 2002.
As I have been studying the subject of late, there is no question that women have been shut out of American politics for many years. Of course, they didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. Even with that, women have been in a box.
The presidency has been a “man’s world.” 73% of presidents have had military experience and 59% have been lawyers. One can make a good argument for why military experience and knowledge of the law are relevant criteria.
Today, women have a shot and getting both military experience and law degrees. What make superior presidential candidates? American voters need to ponder that question because frankly, we have not been doing a very good job.
Denying women the opportunity to contribute via America’s top job is simply cheating us of the best, I think. As we have seen from recent candidates, however, we don’t need to accept just any woman running for president. Aim higher, we must.
“For a woman to reach the White House, the 2012 elections will be key
By Debbie Walsh and Kathy Kleeman, Friday, April 1, 6:30 PM
When Geraldine Ferraro, the history-making former vice presidential candidate, died a week ago, another history-making female politician reflected on her legacy.
“She paved the way for a generation of female leaders and put the first cracks in America’s political glass ceiling,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in a statement with her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
Secretary Clinton is especially familiar with the glass ceiling. When she ended her candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, she thanked her supporters and said: “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
Clinton herself says she won’t take that path next time. She recently told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she does not want to serve a second term as secretary of state and has “no intention” of running for office again.
Perhaps the torch is passing to a new generation of political women — but whose arms are outstretched? Highly visible names in national politics — Bachmann, Giffords, Gillibrand, Haley, Palin, Pelosi — mask the reality that progress in electing women has stalled.
Almost three decades after Ferraro’s pathbreaking candidacy, only one other woman has won a spot on a major party’s national ticket, and we still haven’t seen our first female president or vice president. The number of women in Congress fell from 90 in 2010 to 88 today, the first decline in 30 years. In state legislatures, the number of women slipped by an alarming 81 nationwide after the last election, a full percentage point drop. Women hold less than 17 percent of congressional seats, just six of 50 governorships and not even a quarter of state legislative posts. We have yet to break the 25 percent barrier at any level, let alone achieve parity for a group that’s more than half the U.S. population. And if we’re going to see a woman in the White House in our lifetimes, we’ll need to see more women in these elective offices first.
This isn’t just about numbers, though. Women bring distinctive life experiences to politics, and research shows that female officeholders change both the policy agenda and the governing process. Whether the issue is equal access to credit (Bella Abzug) or education (Patsy Mink), family and medical leave (Marge Roukema), or inclusion of women in medical research (Pat Schroeder and Olympia Snowe), female lawmakers have long been recognized as powerful voices on behalf of women, children and families.
The next election year, 2012, could be pivotal in bringing new female faces into the political picture. With the reapportionment and redistricting following the 2010 census, we’re likely to see major shifts in both Congress and state legislatures as longtime incumbents retire, current lawmakers confront new constituencies and new seats are added in key states. (It’s no coincidence that the last giant increase in female candidates occurred in 1992, another post-census election.) At least eight of the 33Senate races in 2012 will feature open seats. And recent election cycles have shown us that the electorate is volatile and primed for change. Incumbency is no longer a near-guarantee of victory — and in some cases, it may even be a negative. These forces give newcomers an unparalleled opportunity to break into the system.
But the election of more women won’t happen on its own. In a study of state legislators conducted by our organization, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, almost twice as many women as men said they decided to run only after it was suggested to them, while nearly twice as many men as women said the decision to run was entirely theirs. We frequently observe that men are apt to wake up, look in the mirror and think, “I’d make a great state senator!” Female candidates more often need to be recruited.
One woman who started as an advocate for education, ended up on her local school board and then in the state legislature before rising still further, begins her official online bio by admitting, “Patty Murray never planned to enter politics, but today she is serving her fourth term in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Democratic Leadership.” Adding to the challenge, about a third of female state representatives, compared with only about a quarter of men, say someone tried to discourage them from running — most often an officeholder or party official.
Political parties remain the largest roadblock on women’s path to public office. If either major party made it a real priority to elect more women — with more than just an occasional tip of the straw boater to efforts at inclusion — we’d see immediate and substantial progress. But the old boys’ network retains its grip on power. At the local level, both parties draw largely from the same shallow pool of candidates — the ones who decide to seek office themselves (usually men). As for building a more gender-balanced ballot? The parties leave that to the groups that focus solely on finding female candidates.
Organizations across the political spectrum — from Emily’s List to the Susan B. Anthony Fund, from Emerge America (for Democrats) to the Excellence in Public Service Series (for Republicans) — have made significant efforts to advance women in politics. But it shouldn’t fall to women’s groups alone to generate slates of female candidates. Electing women should be on the minds of all who select and promote candidates. The pipeline that would fill with women at the local level and channel them into successively higher offices may not be empty now, but we need more than a trickle — we need a torrent.”
“Finding Madam President
Postcard from New York
By ANAT MAYTAL,
Published: Friday, July 12, 2002
NEW YORK—Within the next eight years, leading media pundits expect Al Gore ’69, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Tom DeLay, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Sen. John F. Kerry and Rep. Dick Armey to run for the presidency. Almost nowhere within the national public arena does the name of a female presidential hopeful receive mention. To my pleasant surprise, the White House Project (WHP), an organization dedicated to fostering women’s leadership, is working to change that—and fast.
“We will see a woman run for president by 2008, if not sooner,” said Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate, at a WHP-sponsored panel discussion.
Hearing Ferraro’s passionate speech on the first day of my internship really challenged my views about women in politics. How do I reconcile her firm belief in the idea of a female president before the end of the decade with the fact that American women today remain largely underrepresented not only on the presidential level but in the national government as a whole?
Women, who account for 52 percent of this country’s population, have not achieved the true political equality dreamt by our feminist pioneers. Of more than 12,000 members of Congress since our nation’s founding, only about 2 percent, or 215, have been women. All of America’s 43 presidents and 46 vice presidents have been men. The discrepancy of power between men and women only increases when comparing the U.S. to many other parts of the world. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the U.S. ranks 55th globally in terms of women’s membership in the lower house of the legislature—a ranking it shares with the Slovak Republic, a struggling new Eastern European country.
These statistics should startle and disgust a country that takes pride in its commitment to equality between the sexes. My interactions at the WHP with several leading political thinkers forced me to wonder why women are still held back. Why don’t we have gender parity on Capitol Hill? But most importantly, why have we not had a female contender in the running for the presidency, let alone the vice-presidency, in nearly 20 years?
Bob Carpenter, a panel speaker who worked with Elizabeth Dole in her failed bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, simply answers that the rules are different for women candidates than they are for men. Eleanor Clift, whose book Madam President examines the barriers to women’s executive leadership, agreed that the standards are drastically different for women, but she added, “women should not have to apologize for wanting a seat at the table” considering they make up half of the population and vote in greater numbers than men.
Regrettably, despite whatever equality should exist, women still must prove themselves to the American public more than their male counterparts solely because of their gender. While a Gallop poll indicated that the number of Americans who said they would vote for a qualified woman president rose from 30 percent in 1945 to over 90 percent in 1999, 51 percent of those asked still believed a man would do a better job than a woman when it came to leading the nation during a crisis, underlining the belief that women lack credibility as commanders-in-chief precisely because they are women.
This perception is especially problematic because reality refutes it. While many know that Lieberman and Sen. John S. McCain are national security experts based on their experiences as members of several Senate committees, including the Armed Services committee, few know that Sen. Mary Landrieu serves as the chair of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee or that Rep. Nancy Pelosi is the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
The WHP has found that the media only exacerbates this problem further through its portrayal, or rather its lack of portrayal, of female politicians on Sunday morning political shows where aspiring government leaders have the unique opportunity to convey their competence and importance. In a recent study, the WHP analyzed 18 months of programming by five programs from “Face the Nation” to “Meet the Press,” and found that only 10 percent of the total guests were women. And when looking at repeat appearances, female guests’ appearances dropped to 6 percent. How can women become leaders on the national stage if they are locked out of the very venues that can bring them there?
The lack of favorable media attention only contributes to what is probably the largest setback for a woman to become president: the very fact that no woman has ever been president. There is no political role model for women to emulate. In 2000, although Elizabeth Dole’s presidential run was short-lived, it inspired a new generation of female leaders. The outpouring of female support for Dole underscores the desire for images of women in executive positions. For instance, Iceland’s Vigdic Finnbogadottir said that after she had been president for eight years, she realized that she helped change the perception of her office when there were children in her country who thought that only a woman could be president.
While the majority of American women work outside the home in all professions, the public still struggles with the idea of a female president. These attitudes have to change in a post-Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice political horizon. People need to recognize female politicians for their qualifications and not for their gender. Our nation’s failure to do so deprives it of female decision and policy-making abilities.
At the 1984 Democratic convention, then vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro stood before an audience half-filled with women, many of them crying, to accept her nomination. She wore a pastel pink suit, as if to say, “Get used to it—this is the new color of power.”
Anat Maytal ’05, a Crimson editor, is a government concentrator in Currier House. This summer, she is preparing her bid for the 2028 presidential election.”