Equal-a-she: Why do so few women go into politics?

Awards

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Personal interest: 

My interest in this particular topic stemmed from my admiration of my Mum, my mother is an example of a strong and capable woman, and she is my biggest teacher and most impactful inspiration. So I wanted to make a project that can support the work she does with legislative reform. My love for the NBC show Parks and Recreation was also a contributing factor to my deep love of politics, and therefore interest in this topic. This sitcom followed local government, with the lead character, Leslie Knope, being a zealous and dedicated civil servant. Although Leslie Knope may be a fictional character, she represents a powerful woman in government who we can all strive to mimic. Having seen powerful women in fields of law, government, and politics, it was clear that my Catalyst research project should focus on the treatment of women in politics and their effect on the status quo.

Before we dive into it, take this diagnostic quiz to asses your knowledge on Women’s Poltical History!

Historic tokenism:

For the majority of the 20th century women comprised less than 5% of the voting power within Congress. This was especially a problem during the 1960s where we saw another swell of equal rights legislation. This led to “sexist anti-sexist legislation” being passed; bills such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were originally designed to reduce sexism in the workplace but only perpetuated it. The Equal Pay Act was introduced by Sen. Margaret Smith in 1962, with President Kennedy signing it into law in 1963. Within the Equal Pay Act, there is a clause that demands that equal work must be met with equal pay regardless of sex, race, or any other factors. However, the law doesn’t differentiate between the words “equal, identical, or substantially equal,” and employers still exploit this loophole in the status quo as an excuse to pay women less. This cycle is known in political science as “Female Politician Conditioning”: a female representative would propose a bill, male senators would heavily edit but still pass the bill, and when the said bill has been declared a failure all the credit would go to the sponsor further ruining the credibility of the few female representatives. 

Status Quo:

Within California, women hold roughly 30% of the voting power in Congress. This imbalance is far worse nationwide as California holds the record number of women in their state’s government. California harboring a cult of personality around our system’s fairness. It’s a shame that California is known for pioneering women to the top, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris are evidence of that, and yet at home, our system is crippled with misogyny making it nearly impossible for female-centered legislation to be passed without the meddling of men. The manifestation of this disparity is best seen with policy, abortion rights, birth control access, and targeted domestic violence are examples of ways the system fails women. By not having the voting power to pass legislation, women’s issues are heavily politicized, with the two parties splitting hairs and stalling the issues; male politicians are the cause of this divide, so how exactly can we solve it?

Lack of long term solutions:

Lobbyist and informational organizations, such as the National Organization of Women or the Center for American Women and Politics, both work on national and state levels to pass centered female policy; Lobby groups play into a sexist narrative seen in the prohibition era, where women cause a riot, and the men solve the problem. Lobbying the federal government to pass a female-centered policy under a predominantly male system will not solve gender inequality, that’s where they fall short. When lobby groups succeed, they don’t create lasting change; instead, they play right into the system, giving those male politicians in Washington a firmer hold.

Call to Action: 

To fix these issues, I have created a solution to introduce a female quota for California’s State Senate and State Assembly. Intuitively it makes sense; we are imbalanced in the Senate. This solution is only viable if we fix the current imbalence, the real issue is that few women even chose to run for office because of the toxic environment of misogyny; I, encourage my audience to encourage those passionate and powerful women around you to run for elected office. As soon as we reach a version of balance, that’s when we can introduce my peremptory solution of a female minimum quota. There are also smaller state specific solutions provided by the Center for American Women and Politics that I have linked here. In this case education and further discourse is a viable solution, as the more people aware of the specific injustice the less people are complacent to it. Linked here is a series of essays I wrote that you may find interesting. I think gratitude is an important tool we rarely make use of. If you have a female politician you look up to I would ask you to write an email of gratitude to them, to encourage and motivate those brave women who lead our country. 

In the comments below I would appreciate the following:

  1. Is there anything you have learned from this presentation, is there anyone who would benefit from seeing this site? If so please share and forward my site!
  2. Is there a female politican who you look up to? What makes them so inspiring or interesting to you?
  3. Is there someone in your life who would make a good politican? Who are they and how can they help and get involved? 

Work Cited: 

Click here for the bibliography of this webpage. 

4 Comments

4 comments

  1. Gabriella Kerrigan

    Hi Anay!

    Wow!! I loved your project! And what a fascinating and relatable topic choice. I have to say, I am surprised a guy would care enough to shed light on the inequality of women in politics. Thank you! We need more allies like you. To answer some of your questions, I was disappointed to read the statistic that women only make up 30% of the voting power in the state with the most women in positions (California). I am exposed to a lot of these statistics based on the women in my life and that I go to an all girls school, so I can’t say I am surprised. Disappointed, yes. I hope one day I can make a difference in that number – I know my peers will! The only thing I would suggest to improve your page, is to link your essays in a way that draws more attention to them. You clearly put so much work into those essays specifically, and I would hate for viewers not to see them. Great job! Great topic! Great perspective! Congratulations!

  2. Kathryn_526

    Hi Anay! I really enjoyed reading about your project and I think its really interesting that your solution involved a systemic change. I think it becomes easy to pass of human rights issues as societal and cultural beliefs. But so much of our societal beliefs come from our legislation. There is no de-centivising women in politics, but there is no incentive. I think your solution of a quota would be a great way to amplify female voice in politics and make the playing field more even.

  3. Avatar

    Hi Anay! I thought your presentation was absolutely great! One thing I learned about from your project was the Equal Pay loop hole many male politicians use. Thank you for sharing your research and opinions on this topic and I hope your message will spread to many male politicians so they can be more educated and less complacent when it comes to this topic. Nice Work!

  4. Sophia

    Hey Anay! Great project, I especially enjoyed the images you included with your writing as well as your connection to this issue in the state of California where I live. Something I learned from your presentation was about Female Politician Conditioning, a harmful cycle that discredits female political representatives. I like your proposed solution of a quota since I think it would have the potential to break down misogynistic barriers women face and help certain issues become better represented. Awesome job!

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