Before Spring Break the “Women’s Law Forum” student group on campus brought in Kamala Shugar, of Emerge Oregon, to discuss the relationship between women and politics. While I knew that women were underrepresented in government, I was still shocked by the magnitude.
- While 51% of the United States population is female, only 17% of Congressional representatives are women.
- There are currently only 5 female governors (10%): Jan Brewer (R – AZ), Susana Martinez (R – NM), Mary Fallin (R – OK), Nikki Haley (R – SC), and Maggie Hassan (D – NH).
- Only 23% of Oregon’s elected officials are women.
I believe that whomever brings the best ideas should be elected, regardless of gender. However, is it probable that women do not have the better ideas this often? Data shows there are other reasons that women choose not to run for elected office. The biggest concerns regard the effect of the election process on their families and balancing public office with home life. Additionally, Ms. Shugar asserted that women need to be seriously approached 6-7 times before they will truly consider running for public office, while their male counterparts only need to be approached once.
Another concern is that a strong, assertive woman is termed a bitch, ball-buster, or has her sexual orientation questioned. Being a strong leader with opinions and ideas is seen as a male characteristic. Why? As future attorneys we are preparing to be leaders in our communities, whether through public office or other community engagement. By nature of our professional training, we will be looked to in certain situations. This means every woman in our school should be concerned about this stereotype and take steps towards changing it. The only question is how.
Below is a link to the trailer of a film addressing the battle between women and the media’s obsession with appearance. It then focuses on the lack of confidence created in girls based on appearance that carries into professional life as they grow. According to the trailer at age 7 there are an equal number of men and women who want to be President of the United States, by age 15 the number of women interested drops dramatically. “Miss Representation” blames the media for this.
The benefits of having more female representatives go beyond equal representation concerns. Women tend to be better at working across the aisle than their male counterparts, they focus on domestic issues such as education, and tend to be less likely to engage in international conflict, which encourages diplomatic solutions.
So ladies, interested in representing us?