Why does the number or percentage of women in politics matter? The equal presence of women, who bring their leadership skills, lived experiences and insights to government, is essential to ensure greater responsiveness of government to the needs of all citizens.
While political involvement of women has increased over the past century, there are still large gaps to fill if America (and other countries) are to meet this goal of equal gender representation. For instance, women made up only 25% of the last session of Congress.
Recently, President Joe Biden took the first step towards “a new era’' in American history, selecting Kamala Harris for the vice presidency, a seat historically held exclusively by men. This represents decades of work towards equal opportunity for women.
Biden has proposed a Cabinet of 48% women. As Biden said, “Building a diverse team will lead to better outcomes and more effective solutions to address the urgent crises facing our nation.” Hopefully Biden’s Cabinet is an indication that the gender disparity in these important positions may soon come to an end.
The first woman in global politics to hold the title of “president” was Iceland’s Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 1980, and today, only 14 women serve in president-like positions in all the world. Do not be fooled by the level of participation, these numbers are incredibly low compared to their male counterparts. Despite the significant contributions of these women and their successes, the current situation is not sufficiently different from that of the 20th century.
As we have shown, women are not being represented in today’s American, democratic process. Luckily, a key quality of America’s democracy is its ability to flow and change in order to render proper representation of its people. The Founding Fathers understood that what they wrote into the Constitution would become less grounded in contemporary social realities, violating new social orders and expectations (such as the necessity for total representation in government). It is, then, our patriotic duty to be the change that we so long for in our government (that government being for, by, and of the people).
We need more women because we need to mirror the world in which we live, namely, where women are slightly more than half of the world’s population. Also, agreeing with research done in 2020, “Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills,” “women were rated as excelling in taking initiative, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty. In fact, they were thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies that we most frequently measure.”
For that reason, having more women in leadership can improve the quality of government and the first step towards equal representation.
Although female political participation is important for representation of that population, it is doubly important that these effective traits find their way into world governments to improve decision making and leadership.
As a new generation, we care about this, and we want to see a change in society, particularly in the government because it’s the highest authority and for that reason it has to provide the example to create a society where we all have equal rights. Also, it would be the basis of a real democracy if politicians looked like their constituents.
Matilda Sophia Mottola and Jack Lange are high school students at Rowland Hall. They are participating in a writing project with Alliance for a Better Utah. Matilda was born and raised in Florence, Italy, but now lives in Park City, after recently moving to the United States in fall of 2020. Jack lives in Salt lake City but was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee.