Why Aren’t There More Women in Politics?
Why gender roles and incumbency advantage detour women from politics.
Women are the majority in the United States and virtually every woman I know is genuinely concerned with women’s issues and women’s rights. So, why are women so disproportionately represented in public office? That is a good question and I believe can be explained in a number of ways.
First of all, in my own experience, many women are not concerned with politics and in their daily lives live the role that our society has given to women. From birth, gender roles are placed on all of us. Girls play house and take on the role of caregiver with their toy dolls and boys pretend to be doctors or in some instances, cops and robbers. I find that gender roles give us a way to “belong” and to give ourselves meaning. It’s important to remember that with these assigned gender roles that women are shy and passive. When a female is taught to be shy and passive why would she be inquisitive into politics because she will probably just vote as her husband decides any way?
As small children, females are taught to be helpful and cooperative and males are taught to be assertive and inquisitive. The traits are taught simply by how parents play with their children. If females were taught as children some of these characteristics that are thought to be predominate to the male gender, we may have more women voting for women in public office and running for public office as well.
In addition to gender roles there is the disadvantage that women face when it comes to the incumbency advantage. This is the benefit that a person has who has already been voted into a particular office once has. Because there are so many more men already holding political positions, it makes it difficult for a new person to break in. Seniority systems create a disincentive for voters to select someone else. Legislature runs on seniority, no one wants their incumbent to be replaced by a new person who would then be the lowest ranked legislator.
In conclusion, gender roles and incumbency advantage play a role in the reason why women are not equally represented in public office. I feel that if we can break the cycle of taught gender roles and encourage women to be active in politics that a change can be made. The gender gap is breaking down and we have seen some strides including Nancy Pelosi as the first female house speaker, Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency and that in 2010 marked the first time three women Supreme Court justices serving at the same time. We as a society need to be active in raising female children without the past gender roles and giving hope to a new age of women in politics.