Following the November 2022 midterm elections, a record number of female politicians were elected to the legislature and executive in the United States. However, neither in Congress nor in the positions of state governors, the number of women is still not 50%. What obstacles and prejudices do women candidates face when entering politics?
Nancy Pelosi knows the answer to this question. She is stepping down as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives this year — she is over 80 — but she is not leaving Congress. When she was first elected in 2007, she became the first woman in history to hold this position. When President Barack Obama struggled to get a major bill through Congress, Pelosi told him his political philosophy, according to eyewitness accounts:
“You have to go through the door. If the door is closed, you must climb the bars. If the grid is too high, jump on it with a pole. If that doesn’t work, then you have to skydive.
We know that women who are in power do not have the stubbornness of men. According to various studies, women still lead in a slightly different way.
“Women legislators are more likely to cooperate with their opponents in the other party – and that they will be able to push the bill through opponents because the coalitions they create are broader,” says Dana Brown, director Executive of the Center for Women’s Studies. in politics from Pennsylvania Chatham University. — They want to make the process of discussing bills more transparent. They also use more inclusive language – more often than men, they use the pronoun “we” rather than the pronoun “I”.
According to Dana Brown, women legislators also ensure that more public money flows into their constituencies for the needs of their constituents – they act like zealous housekeepers. That is, they are potentially more effective managers.
When Nancy Pelosi first ran for Congress in 1986, there were only 23 women in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. Next year, in the November midterm elections, there will be 149 women in both houses of the US Congress. There is also progress in the executive branch – 12 women have been elected to state governorships, three more than before.
Amanda Hunter, executive director of the Barbara Lee Foundation, which has studied and promoted women in the executive branch for 25 years, says voters, out of habit and tradition, place more demands on women candidates than on men.
“We did a lot of research on this topic,” says Amanda Hunter. – When a man stands for election, he can simply publish his CV and his leadership qualities are immediately recognized. And when a woman comes forward, especially for a leadership position, she needs to prove that she has achieved real results in all of her previous jobs. That is to say, women have to prove that they are worthy, while men just have to say it and convince themselves of it.
The two mainstream American parties support promising new politicians in slightly different ways. Democrats pay particular attention to groups in the population that are less represented in power – and often deliberately nominate and support women. Republicans say they don’t play “gender games” – they care about a particular candidate’s political qualities, not their gender. Experts also note that today both parties are paying particular attention to women politicians – because voters have growing confidence in women in politics.
“It’s important in terms of the fairness and legitimacy of our power,” says Kelly Dittmar of Rutgers University. “We want those in power to represent the interests of all the constituencies they serve – that’s the foundation of a representative democracy.”
Experts say the women are also drawing attention to issues lawmakers have previously overlooked.
“Women may have a different perspective on important issues like the economy, childcare, reproductive rights and health care,” says Kelly Dittmar. – But not only. The women bring to the legislature a different perspective on all the issues discussed there — and which the men have yet to include in their discussions.
Leaders of both parties always keep a close eye on rising stars in politics. Over the past five years, there have been many women among these stars. The possibility of a female president ever entering the White House is being taken increasingly seriously by both Democrats and Republicans.
“Among Republicans, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, she worked in the administration of President Trump, has such potential,” notes Kelly Dittmar. – Another strong politician is Sarah Huckabee, who was just elected governor of Arkansas, she also worked in the Trump administration. It is not yet known if she has the ambition to enter the White House. And then Christy Noem, governor of South Dakota, who was a congresswoman and who is very popular.
On the Democratic side, experts point to Kamala Harris, the current vice-president of the United States, who is used to working at the top of the executive. Maura Healy, a former Massachusetts attorney general who was just elected state governor, is seen as an up-and-coming politician. Also catching the attention of Democrats is Letitia James, who stands out for her work as New York State Attorney General and as a public figure.
“Women are letting go of their doubts and entering politics,” says Amanda Hunter of the Barbara Lee Foundation. “According to our research, they do this to solve problems. If you look at the women in the Senate and in Congress today, they come from different professional fields: they served in the military, they were nurses, they were teachers, they worked in the CIA. Many had never thought of a political career before – but there was something wrong with them in society and they wanted change.
There is a generation of young people growing up in America who will not remember the days when women were not governors or senators. And this, according to experts, makes society fairer.
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