We Still Need 140,000 Women in Office for Political Gender Equality
Despite Hillary Clinton's historic presidential nomination, politics remains extremely male-dominated. Could her candidacy help change that?
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday, some major newspapers caught flack for running a photo of former President Bill Clinton on their front page instead of one featuring the first woman to be nominated for US president by a major political party. "Simple proof of enduring sexism," one woman tweeted with a photo of The Wall Street Journal's Wednesday morning edition.
Editors offered several explanations for the decision, including the impact of Bill Clinton's speech Tuesday night and the late hour Hillary Clinton appeared to conventioneers via video. But, as some have noted, those media outlets took away from Hillary Clinton's moment to shine.
Now that she's put the "biggest crack" in the glass ceiling, the question remains: Will Clinton's accomplishment open the door to usher in more women to run for office? Currently, women make up only 19.4 percent of the seats in Congress.
Anne Moses is the president and founder of Ignite, an organization focused on helping young women to become political leaders. She tells Broadly that she's not sure if Clinton's nomination is going to encourage more women to enter into public service. "I think what happens for young women is that they see her—she was the First Lady, she was the Secretary of State, she was a two-term Senator—and they see all these credentials and they wonder, 'How do I do that?' It almost looks untenable," she says. "I also think depending on what your race and ethnicity is—look at Hillary Clinton—it's even more untenable."
There are roughly 500,000 political offices the US needs to fill each year, most of which are at the local level, Moses says. "Somewhere between 20 to 22 percent are held by women. That means to get parity, we need 140,000 more women in office. It's a pretty big problem."
According to some research, one reason women don't run for office as often as men is that they believe they just aren't qualified enough to hold public office. Women also aren't as likely to be recruited by political gatekeepers or other members of the community.
Amy Chiou, who served as the convention complex staff director for this year's Democratic National Convention and has also worked on a dozen other political campaigns, says she'd like to see more women at every level of service and leadership. "The political system, much like the corporate board room, is stronger when different experiences are included in important discussions," she tells Broadly. "Whether it's paid family leave, equal pay, access to health care, or access to quality education, these policies affect young people and women differently."
Women help change the status quo by offering their perspective, Chiou says. "They bring their life experiences as mothers, daughters, and partners to public service. They bring the injustices and hardships they experience as women to the conversation."
If more women get involved in politics, more legislation can be passed that directly impacts all women. In 2014, Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York partnered to write new recommendations addressing and preventing campus sexual violence.
"It's not that men don't support [policy changes like this]," Moses says. "It just wasn't their experience. How would they know to write legislation like that. They weren't the ones getting raped. The minute [McCaskill and Gilliband] wrote it, they had older Republican men signing off on it."
The problem of women being underrepresented in political leadership roles isn't going to get better organically, Moses says. "We'll see if Hillary Clinton changes that."