When girls transition into adulthood and into the workforce they often face difficulties in achieving upward mobility as well as fighting against discrimination. Some argue that by acknowledging this kind of reality, they are already creating their own glass ceilings. My theory about what contributes to women’s impediment in the workplace and other disciplines include a long list of factors, but the one I want to focus on is the fear of failure. This fear can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. In some aspects, it can be illustrated in delusions of grandeur. Women and men alike value their image. Especially in the professional world, keeping face and gaining approval from work peers is very important. However, at times it can be counter-intuitive to abide by these socially constructed notions, particularly for women. When women do not push the envelope or challenge the framework of predominately male positions of power, it is hard to gain advances. It is not an easy task that women face because there are so many opposing forces that interrogate their capability, and ultimately contribute to this fear of falling short.
I can personally relate to this kind of fear during my early education. When I was in elementary school I was enthralled by the prospect of representing my classmates, engaging in public speaking, and carrying out my civic responsibility. I was a confident person. After outperforming my male counterparts in a comedic speech and meticulously self-campaigning, I thought student government was a perfect fit for me. Despite my excitement, shortly after being named the class president, I felt overwhelmed by the resentment of my male classmates. I continued to pursue the passion of student government in my formative years but after the antagonism of my male and later female classmates, bitterness, and fear of failing, I decided to stay away. I became less confident in myself and my abilities.
The opportunity to participate in a position of leadership resurfaced when I decided to try out as a student ambassador for the Tournament of Roses. A rose princess to be exact. I was selected among the 700 contestants or so based on my academic merit, poise, and speaking ability. I was very excited to represent my community. While I am completely grateful for my participation in the community events, including hospital, school, and service club visits, I cannot help but express my discontent at the lack of women involved in the Tournament of Roses. The Tournament of Roses is by no means a small foundation; It is a large, complex, and deeply political organization. Being involved gave me insight into the inner workings of power as well as its direct relationship to money and gender.
Although I entered PCC & UCSB as a Communication Major, my experiences prompted me to consider other areas that would ignite my passion: A vehemence that lied in the crux of policymaking as well as advocating for women to use their voice in leadership. Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In, describes that many women in the workplace believe those running the systems arrived there because of some sort of merit. This is not always the case because differences in attitudes between genders play a major role in how men land those “big-boy” jobs. The barriers that keep women from more managerial positions exist throughout the professional world. In aspects of leadership, particularly government and politics, women time and time again play by the rules and work much harder than men to attain some of the very same things. The so-called accomplishments that have been made over the last 50 years regarding women’s suffrage and civil rights are human liberties and I am not so sure that this movement should be viewed so much as radical progress as it should simply be viewed as a rational strive for fairness.
In 2016, for the first time in American history, there was a female candidate. Whether people agree with her politics or not does negate its significance. Women like Hillary Clinton have been involved in politics for most of their lives and although I think all women should be critically evaluated in politics, this should only be in consonance with their male counterparts. When I see women in power that are assessed as unattractive or picked on for aesthetic variables, I get frustrated that these commentaries are outside of a relevant domain in relation to their abilities as candidates. What is especially troubling is when the public focuses on compassion as a character trait of weakness. The double standard of seeming less sensitive to issues implies that those particular women are some sort of paradox and that all women should be one way… motherly and warm.
Hillary Clinton. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Beyond the normal protocol involving petty political tactics to destroy a candidate’s reputation, women also face objectification. When we ask ourselves if we can look at a woman without objectifying her- we are starting to dig deeper at the root of the problem. If we take it a step further, ask yourself if you would work for a Fortune 500 company if you knew 70% of them were run by women. If the answer is no- ask yourself why. Men are trusted in positions of leadership but why? Is it simply because it is what we have seen and what we have known in historical and religious context? It is indisputable that our frame of reference has been restricted. If a woman cannot be viewed as a strong-willed leader without consequences of her female identity affecting her abilities to do her job and have fair judgment, the political inequality of women will always exist.
As the United States suffers economic strife and political unrest, what is most advantageous for our nation is to be open-minded to new ideas and particularly the insight that women have to offer this country. I believe that to improve our situation, we must accept women as a part of the visionaries of tomorrow while encouraging and supporting their qualification in positions of power.
Gender discrimination in the political domain has undoubtedly affected the long-term attitudes about females in the system. Women have endured political repression in their advent as participants into civic representation from the very beginning of time. However longitudinally speaking, American women have experienced a gradual ascension in politics, as stated in a recent article by Richard L. Fox and Jennifer Lawless called If Only They’d Ask: Gender, Recruitment, and Political Ambition.
Fox and Lawless found that the U.S. is one of the leading 10 countries in gender equity. Yet there are still 83 nations that surpass the United States in the number of women serving in the national legislature. Sandberg mentions in her book women’s limited representation in roles of power. She says, “The gender stereotypes introduced in childhood are reinforced throughout our lives and become self-fulfilling prophecies. Most leadership positions are held by men, so women don’t expect to achieve them, and that becomes one of the reasons they don’t.” Scholars believe there is a multitude of reasons why women have a slow progress in the ascension into electoral politics and power. I agree with Sandberg’s explanation that these stereotypes begin at a very young age. Moreover, the lack of confidence ensues, and so promptly does the fear of striking out.
The fear, hostility, and difficulty of arriving in positions of power as a female can be seen in the overwhelming disparity of the 111th Congress representation. Whereas 83% of its members were male, at state and local levels roughly 75% of elected officials are male respectively. Of the 50 states, 43 of the governors also male. That puts women at less than 15%. In larger cities in the United States, 89% of city halls are run by men. The unbalanced amount of women in jobs that lead to political careers or areas of political power is an undeniable testament to a system that is unfair. Since there is a lack of knowledge and more background for women in politics, there is no wonder why traversing the political sphere is so challenging.
An article by Kathleen Dolan’s Impact of Gender Stereotyped Evaluations of Support for Women Candidates, published in 2009, includes research and analysis on the ingrained attitudes of the public towards a female candidate. While personality characteristics are important regardless of gender, people can be very quick to label female politicians. Sometimes the ruling image of women as a whole can be restrictive because people might assume that when it comes down to it, she will never “push the button.”
People with similar stereotypes about women will not vote to put them in office but instead buy into a groupthink mentality. If people assume a female’s pre-existing focus is in areas of education and family, they may assume this equates to a lack of competence in crime, defense, and foreign policy issues. Uneducated and uninformed voters are impacted by these generalized conceptions of female candidates. Instead of critically thinking, they will arbitrarily vote with value claims surrounding women and their supposed incapabilities.
Research proves that “people’s judgment about women’s capabilities shape their willingness to support them in electoral situations.” (Dolan). While some stereotypes can help them others hinder them, specifically when it comes to views on policy. In a 2016 publication of the Nation paper entitled Wanted: Women in Power, further studies of the impact of women in government positions were collected. The results showed that women legislators generally focused on areas like health, childcare, discrimination, anti-violence, and human rights whereas men did not prioritize these communal issues. Despite women’s’ effort to help the greater good, men still had a higher success rate in being elected. It makes me wonder if the communal issues are being put on the burner, not for the reason that they have less importance but rather because the voices of men on any issues they bring up are the ones that people direct their attention to.
Another article feature called If Only They’d Ask: Gender, Recruitment, and Political Ambition contains some interesting public opinion polls that suggest if women can get their foot in the door that is the most crucial step. They indicate that women don’t have an overwhelming disadvantage with the public when getting re-elected. Of course, sociodemographic, age, income, and education are all factors in how successful the election or recruitment for certain positions will be. Party affiliation, culture, and past experiences are also relevant variables. When it comes to recruitment for political office, campaigns rely heavily upon help from political institutions. These institutions are much like Congress in that they are male-dominated. The findings stated that “highly qualified and politically well-connected women from both major political parties are less likely than similarly situated men to be recruited to run for public office by all types of political actors.”( Fox and Lawless).
Possible solutions for women who desire to be involved in leadership positions or politics is staying in contact with a women’s organization. They can neutralize the recruitment disadvantage mentioned earlier because women. when organized and united, are a force to be reckoned with. Over the last 20 years, several women’s organizations have formed in order to push more women into politics. These organizations include The White House Project, founded in 1998, dedicated to advancing women’s leadership. Later the 2007 campaign ‘‘She Should Run’’ was founded and had the same mission as the White House Project but added an online database. The idea was to expand and diversify women’s network with other women in political circles. By doing so, they could be inspired and encouraged to participate as well as diversify. Female candidates running for office could truly benefit from these communities and perhaps together could form effective tactics to discuss what has been considered “masculine” topics. Sandberg says, “Until women are as ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men,” and I agree that women must overcome the fear of failure and regain a sense of confidence in exercising their voices about the inequities in positions of power.
Women’s’ determination for equality against sex discrimination over the centuries is unwavering. Those who have been fortunate to have platforms can use it to inform and empower other women. One woman, in particular, Lucille Ball, first started as a part of a chorus line. Up until that time, women were not considered for hosting shows or becoming comedians. When the I Love Lucy TV show aired on CBS, it was the most watched show in the United States for several seasons. At one point, Lucy was pregnant with her first child and the CBS producers did not initially want to feature her pregnancy on the show.
It was very taboo at the time, however, after much deliberation, they wrote it into the script. The episode where Lucy went to the hospital to have her baby had more viewers than any other television program at that time slot. It even beat out the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower, president of the United States the following morning.
After the series ended, Lucy continued acting, as well as took over a major television studio. She was one the first woman to do so and in her later life, received several prestigious awards, recognizing all the work she had done in television but also as her work as a trailblazer for women in that field. Beyond her legacy, she made many impactful contributions to the perceptions of females in popular American culture.
Women’s history would not be accounted for it wasn’t for its leading women that disregarded gender barriers and political inequalities. Females are exerting themselves in American government and instead of asking for a chance, they are becoming more willing to take one. Instead of focusing on the fear of saying something, one should instead fear the lack of our progress if we say nothing. It is essential in the leading bodies of our nation that we provide a different approach to women and their right to be in positions of power. d I believe if we do so, it could very well be the answer many of our nation’s problems.
J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster from 1943
Dolan, Kathleen. “The Impact Of Gender Stereotyped Evaluations On Support For Women Candidates.” Political Behavior 32.1 (2010): 69-88. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Fox, Richard L., and Jennifer L. Lawless. “If Only They’d Ask: Gender, Recruitment, And Political Ambition.” Journal Of Politics 72.2 (2010): 310-326. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.
Pollitt, Katha. “Wanted: Women In Power.” Nation 302.12 (2016): 10-11. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.