Last week at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women there was a theme among the keynote speakers that has stayed with me since the event. Charlotte Beers, the former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell both made extremely valid points of saying that we need more women in office. That got me thinking…
Are we doing enough to encourage girls and young women to have an interest in government and public office?
According to the Rutgers Center for Women and Politics, there are 95 countries with a higher percentage of women in office than the United States.
I recall as a kid learning about the bodies of government and each one’s responsibilities. I also recall memorizing it so that I would do well in class though not really having a genuine interest in the material. Queue today, when personally I cannot wait until this election is done so that all of the bickering, slandering and mud-slinging among the candidates comes to an end. This is just my own opinion here but I can find nothing in today’s election process that a girl would find appealing for a future in politics and government.
It takes significant amounts of money to run for public office. With women still making just over two thirds of what men are making, how are women going to be able to compete in a run for office? Additionally, while the role of Dads has changed dramatically, women are still generally considered the primary household caregivers. If Marissa Mayer is getting so publicly scrutinized for coming on as CEO of Yahoo while pregnant, what is going to happen to a women who wants to serve in public office and have a family too? How realistic is it that women actually could be a part of the political process in the same way as men?
Clearly our system is broken when not everyone has an equal chance to participate. While I do not have the answers, I think it is time to have the discussion and to encourage girls to participate in the political process. We can start by having political conversations in the home while encouraging opinions and allowing our children to disagree with our perspectives. We can also encourage our children to stand up for issues they believe in and encourage their activism. We can encourage them to vote beginning at age 18. Perhaps most importantly, we can instill in them the confidence that they can go on to pursue and have success in any field which interests them, including government.
This is a really good time to mention that October 11th is the Day of the Girl. It was started by an organization of students and young women in Washington, DC who are determined to advance the UN Millennium Development Goals related to gender equality and universal basic education, and other human rights issues. For more information about the Day of the Girl, go to: http://dayofthegirl.org. “When girls come together to talk about what really matters to us, we can teach other people–grownups, boys, girls all across the world–a new way of thinking about issues like gender stereotypes, discrimination, and opportunity.”