Women Still Under-Represented In Elective Politics
The question of women’s achievement today is often clouded
by a condition that I call “information denial”—the
belief that advancement for women is no longer an issue in
our society, even though the facts tell a different story.
I am cautiously optimistic about a recent survey that shows
81 percent of voters would be willing to vote for a woman for
president (62 percent said the country is ready for a female
commander-in-chief), and by the strong turnout of young women
at the polls last November.
At Barnard, a new student group, Smart Women Lead, is at the
forefront of efforts to encourage young women to consider careers
in elective politics. These students will have their work cut
out for them.
The United States currently ranks 58th in a country-by-country
survey of women elected to national legislatures, tied with
Andorra and behind countries like South Africa and Sierra Leone.
It has been 20 years since Geraldine Ferraro became the first
woman on a national presidential ticket. Since then only two
women have run for the nomination of either party (Elizabeth Dole in 2000 and Carol Moseley
Braun in the last election). Both
faced an uphill struggle to raise funds and attracted relatively
to be overwhelmingly male. Only eight women serve as governors
of our 50 states — a record to date
but clearly a long way from political parity.
There is reason for skepticism when we hear voters, and even
our political leaders, say that a woman will surely be president
in their lifetime.
Unless we expand the
cadre of women at every level of government—legislators,
mayors and governors—we can’t expect a woman to
have a real shot at the top office.
The goal is not just one or two women at the top of government
but many more in all of the positions that command resources
and require strategic decisions. This is the glass ceiling we must break.#
Judith Shapiro is President of Barnard College