Encouraging Political Ambition
by Corrin Coleman
Since the 2016 Election there has been an obvious shift in American politics. Last week, American voters watched as women across the nation were elected the new Mayor, Lt. Governor, State Legislator or City Council member across local and state elections. However, despite these successes and the undeniable fact that women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population, we are still severely underrepresented in public office.
Less than 1 in 4 elected leaders in the United States are women. We make up 20% of Congress, 12% of governorships and 24% of other statewide elected offices. The biggest difference between us and our male counterparts? They actually consider running for office.
Women who do decide to run end up winning at the same rate, if not higher than men. Research shows that women choose not to run for a variety of reasons, the most shocking being lack of confidence. As adults, we are taking ourselves out of the race before it even begins. Across the nation, 53% of women are less likely to believe they are qualified for elected positions so they choose not to run at all. On the flip side, 60% of men believe they are less qualified for positions, but they run anyway. In a society that rewards men for ambition, yet ostracizes women for the exact same characteristic, women are conditioned to be hesitant about promoting themselves in such a public way.
This “ambition gap” begins in childhood and follows women throughout their collegiate careers. This gap continues to widen as women, now established in their careers, consider running for public office. However, they are faced with a unique challenge. Women have to prove that they are not only competent but also likeable. Men on the other hand, only need to prove their competence. Various studies have shown that while a man gains power, his popularity increases at the same rate. For women, the exact opposite effect is seen. As she earns power through leadership positions, her popularity dramatically decreases.
With this unavoidable truth, women politicians have found that encouragement from family, peers, and fellow women is the difference in women believing they should run. Yet another reason to find your #GirlGang!
No matter what side you’re on when it comes to political ideology, 2017 has been a year centered around women’s rights. From having a woman be the presidential candidate for a major political party, to hundreds of women speaking out and standing up about sexual assault, we are beginning to see silenced voices being heard. So here’s the truth: we need more women in politics. Without women leaders, women equality issues will never be a top priority. Now here’s the dare: Let’s start encouraging the women in our lives to run. To believe in themselves and their capabilities. If we want little girls to know they can be anything they want when they grow up, including President or Vice President of the United States, let’s start helping them envision those dreams. Now more than ever let’s put accomplished women in public offices.