It’s no secret that U.S. Government positions are held mostly by men. Today, only 20% of the Senate and 19.3% of the House of Representatives is made up of women, despite the fact that the United States is almost exactly equal with women coming in at 50.4% of the total population.
So what does this say about our government? Is its prospective limited because of the gender imbalance? Many of today’s hot button issues deal with the rights of women: healthcare, abortion, and the wage gap are just some of the major issues that directly, and almost exclusively, affect women. It’s not clear why representation is so uneven, but the women currently in office have made a considerable amount of progress. In 1970, only 2% of female candidates won mayoral elections and today that number has risen to 15%. These numbers are still not representative of the population, but it’s clear that progress is being made.
OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE
So while representation for women in government is on the rise, there are still many ways that it can be improved. Some might argue that the female candidates just aren’t as qualified. Others might say they just don’t run as frequently. Regardless, there are opportunities to change the outlook of the future, and one of them is pretty simple: awareness.
Amy Poehler, star of the show Parks and Recreation, not only has experience in public service as the lead role in the show as a local official, but she also is the co-founder of an organization called Amy Poehler Smart Girls at the Party. This organization works to inspire girls to “get their hair wet” and try things they wouldn’t normally do. In many cases, they’re mission is displayed in their highlighting of women who have achieved great things: in entertainment, teaching, and even government.
Targeted toward young girls, the group will often do projects that show how, despite predetermined circumstances, women can, and should, take on challenges outside of their comfort zone. In one article, two contributors review the book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli and focus on their initial discomfort with the subject, but eventual appreciation of a science they felt was inaccessible to them.
The point of all this? To show girls that their preconceived notions of themselves and the world around them might not be showing the whole story. The media portrays such a limiting representation of women that it’s easy to fall prey to the message that there are only so many options and being in charge isn’t one of them: this is where representation becomes an even more crucial part of our future as a society.
According to a documentary on the representation of women in media, the objectification of women, and self-objectification as a result of that, correlates with lower political efficacy. In other words, when women and young girls don’t see themselves being accurately and fairly represented in media and their own governments, they believe that their voice—in government, in business, in school—doesn’t matter.
“When little boys and little girls are 7 years old they, in equal number, want to be president of the United States when they grow up, about 30%. But then you ask the same question when they’re 15 and you see this massive gap emerging so we have this gendered socialization” say Caroline Heldmen, Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College.
SMART GIRLS AT THE PARTY
What the Smart Girls group aims to do is broaden the range of images that girls see in their future. This concept, encouraging young girl to do things they don’t feel capable of, can impact the way our government is shaped in the future.
When girls feel empowered at a young age to take on leadership roles, run for class president, or take classes outside of their major to become better-rounded—this is how we attain our goals of better leaderships for our country and for the world as a whole.