January 23, 2012

Women and Political Office

Here’s a startling statistic: Women are 50% less likely than men to seriously consider running for office, and 33% less likely to view themselves as qualified.

This is the finding of NAME IT. CHANGE IT., a non-partisan project of the Women’s Campaign Forum (WCF) Foundation, the Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity – all organized to end sexist coverage of women and women candidates by the press, from bloggers to television anchors.

As we know, widespread sexism in all media is likely one of the greatest problems facing women today.  For women in the polical world, this toxicity affects their campaigns, their lives, and occasionally, their very being.

Launched by Gloria Steinem in August of 2010, NAME IT. CHANGE IT. takes on all media platforms in an endeavor to erase the sexism women candidates face, regardless of the level of office or policital party.  NAME IT. CHANGE IT. believes that when you attack one women, you attack all women.

Here’s the litmus test for determining if journalists are being fair, which they refer to as “The Reversibility Test” -

“The most workable definition of equality for journalists is reversibility.  Don't mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she's shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man.

“Don't say she's had facial surgery unless you say he dyes his hair or has hair plugs.  Don't say she's just out of graduate school but he's a rising star.  Don't say she has no professional training but he worked his way up.  Don't ask her if she's running as a women's candidate unless you ask him if he's running as a men's candidate; ask both about the gender gap, the women's vote.

“By extension, don't say someone is a Muslim unless you also identify Christians and Jews, or identify only some people by race, ethnicity or sexuality and not others.  However, this does NOT mean being even-handedly positive or negative when only one person or side has done something positive or negative. Equality allows accuracy.”
WFC Foundation has collected a tremendous amount of research validating the work to eliminate sexism and its disastrous effects.  According to Rutgers’s University, 1/3 or women say that someone tried to discourage them from running for office – most often a political party official or an existing officeholder.  If a woman candidate isn’t married, both male and female voters perceive her as less likely to share their own family values.  And on the influential Sunday morning political talk shows, male guests outnumber female guests 4 to 1.

Women’s confidence also lags behind men’s.  “Research shows that among equally qualified men and women, men say, ‘Yes, I’d make a great Senator!’ while women say, ‘No, I couldn’t do that job,’” according to the director of Political Parity.

The work of organizations such as the Women’s Campaign Fund, the White House Project, the Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity all center around finding, training, and supporting women to run for elected office – any party, any office.  Their continuing efforts are working to double the number of women in Congress and in governorships in 10 years, and to advance women’s leadership in all sectors and all communities.  This work is to ensure that all institutions, businesses, and government is truly representative of our country.

This is why we so strongly believe that leadership development is a responsibility of Chrysalis.  And this is the theme in our upcoming Chrysalis Conversations series – that women’s leadership, and the wisdom it brings, can shape a more equitable culture.  Enhancing the confidence of women, and ensuring the confidence of the public in women’s leadership, can change everything.

If you’d like to know more about NAME IT. CHANGE IT.: http://www.nameitchangeit.org/