During my childhood, I listened to kids around me explain to parents and peers what they dreamed to be when they grew up; a policeman, a firefighter, or a ballerina were all popular answers. I, however, had a different dream; upon being asked, I would answer, “I am going to be the president of the United States.” This, unsurprisingly, often elicited a few chuckles from the inquirer. I was only a little kid, after all, decades away from even the possibility of running for such an office. What if, however, this amused response had different connotations; what if my gender was affecting people’s perception of my chances to be elected?
As I grew older, I began to realize that I very rarely heard female names on the nightly news when the issue at hand involved politics. Seldom did I read women politicians quoted in the newspapers. Hardly ever did I see female faces on the covers of magazines when freshman senators were running for office. This phenomenon was not caused by the media’s lack of coverage on female authoritarians; it was caused by the fact that very few of such women exist. I began to wonder: why is there such a lack of female representation in the United States national government? Furthermore, what are the implications of this lack of representation for women like myself and for the citizens of this democratic country at large?
In our own country, out of the more than 12,000 Senators and Congressman that have served in Congress, only 276 of these representatives have been women (Women in Congress: An Introduction). This in and of itself is an extremely small ratio. In modern times, women only make up about 15% of American Congress, also a very minute proportion in comparison to the approximate 85% of Congressional seats occupied by men (McDonaugh 91). There are several speculative reasons as to why we have such a lesser presence of females in positions of power than men within our national government. Historically, voters have been reluctant to vote for women candidates because they have been seen as “nontraditional” contenders who didn’t even gain the right to vote until the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920 (Terrell). Much of this discriminatory thinking derives the time-old argument that domestic responsibilities, such as child-rearing and homemaking, make it difficult for women to balance both a public and private life. Some of this old partiality still holds true today; citizens automatically put male figures before female figures when it comes to electing representatives. These prejudicial attitudes can “limit women’s access to leadership roles,” as well as “foster discriminatory evaluations” if they do go against the odds and manage to gain access to such roles (Eagly 8).
Another major problem for women trying to enter the political arena revolves around the nation’s current economic climate; historically speaking, voters have been less likely to step outside of their comfort zones and vote for...