Women as Political Leaders
Published 30 Jun 2017
America has seen great women for centuries whose achievements gave pride to the country. Today, their influence goes beyond the borders of homes and into the corridors of power as they become presidents, prime ministers, cabinet members, and legislators. Women occupy half of the population in the world and comprise 50% of the workforce. Indeed, there is a need for women as political leaders to address fully the issues and problems facing a nation like the United States. The presence of women in government is very essential to democracy as they balance opinion in policy-making decisions. Women have proven their ability as world leaders and public servants symbolized by Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and India’s Indira Gandhi. Lately, Nancy Pelosi made history as the first woman to assume House Speaker of the US Congress. Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice occupied powerful seats in the cabinet as State Secretary with excellent track records.
In the Philippines, two women were elevated to the presidency through a people’s revolution to replace two corrupt leaders. A simple housewife Corazon Aquino defeated the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos while the current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo liberated the Filipinos from Joseph Estrada now detained for plunder. With their brand of leadership skills, the women have shown their worth and what they can do. Women want to influence the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their families, the political economy, and destiny of their communities and nations, as well as the structure of international relations. Political participation and representation are essential for the achievement of these end (Banerjee and Oquist 3). Despite their strong presence in politics, the women still suffer discrimination and stereotyping as regards to their traditional roles as wife and mother. Ironically in America, the number one democratic country, women are misrepresented in government where only 16 out of 100 senators are females, and only 71 out of 435 representatives in Congress are females. The US places 68th in the ranking worldwide regarding the number of women having government posts.
Some studies reveal that women, as leaders, are good in building partnerships and strengthening relationships to bring people together in a consensus by bridging the gap of groups with diverse views. According to Mary Hawkesworth, director of the Center for Women and Politics, women are great negotiators and effective advocates for many causes. Women tend to ask more questions to listen to all sides of the problems and come up with better solutions. They are inclined to make legislation or formulate policies that have a social impact like health care, education, environment, child support, employment, finance, and family values. Listening to women’s voices might also bring fresh perspectives and insights into the values debates. Women living, working, and building communities at the grassroots of American society may have a different voice about what “moral values” mean and what they demand of American citizens. Their ideas may change the way we debate politics and policymaking about a variety of issues (Caiazza 1).
A study by the United Nations showed that women lead in resolving conflicts and promoting peace and security. They are good communicators, creative, and able to perform multi-tasking activities just like in the homes where they cook, raise children, and do all sorts of household chores. Unlike men, they do not normally seek personal glory but focus on what they can contribute engaging mostly in collaborative politics. In another study conducted by Hagberg Consulting Group in California where 425 corporate executives were evaluated, the women scored very high in everything they did and were graded as effective leaders than men. They also received high marks when it comes to reliability since they are less confrontational and give importance to what direction to take. Further research disclosed that women are more honest and trustworthy than men because they have higher moral and ethical standards. Research sponsored by the World Bank has shown that countries with a high number of women in parliament enjoy lower levels of corruption. It also concluded that women are less likely to be involved in bribery and that corruption is less severe where women make up a large share of senior government officials as well as the labor force (Hunt 2).
Also, women have the high tolerance when everything seems discouraging and possess the emotional strength to hold on hope. However, despite their competitiveness and capabilities, women continue to face several obstacles to make it to the top. First, politics is predominantly cultured by men. Second, women running for public office often lack support from various organizations. Third, they do not have access to well-developed educational and training system. Fourth, most women lack confidence in themselves. Nevertheless, women have contributed significantly to the economic, political, and social structure of any country. Their vision calls for cooperation of every citizen to shape a more productive nation. While the debate about enfranchisement of women and participation of women in decision making often focuses on issues of justice, equity, and human rights, the representation of women and the inclusion of their perspective and experience into the decision-making process will inevitably lead to solutions that are more viable and satisfy a broader range of society. That is why women should be part of the process and why it matters: all of the society benefits as we find better and more appropriate solutions for our problems (Ballington and Karan 15).
Slowly, public opinion on women as leaders is transforming to a positive attitude. However, there is also a need to change notions that in taking charge of a country or society women should not be forced to act like men but be themselves without losing their female qualities. By this time, women are now ready to take on the world, and they deserve our support.
- Hamadeh-Banerjee, Lina, and Oquist, Paul. Women’s Political Participation and Good Governance: 21st Century Challenges. United Nations Development Programme. 2000.
- Caiazza, Amy Ph.D. The Ties That Bind: Women’s Public Vision for Politics, Religion, and Civil Society. Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
- Hunt, Swanee. Let women Rule. Foreign Affairs, May-June 2007.
- Ballington, Julie and Karam, Azza. Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Revised Edition. 2005.