Women in leadership: There’s still work to be done

Disclaimer: *This article is an editorial and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of McNicholas High School administration, faculty, or students.*

In an October 28th Milestone survey about women in positions of leadership, respondents named the following women as inspirations, ranging from political leaders to the teachers among us: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Theology teacher Mary Beth Sandmann, Former first lady Michelle Obama, Theatre teacher Teresa De Zarn, television personality Oprah Winfrey, Architecture and Ceramics teacher Mel Gaskins, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Science teacher Jessica Boese. It’s no secret: Women are on the rise, but there is still work to be done toward achieving equality.

Though close in 2016, The United States has yet to elect a female to the White House, even though according to The Atlantic, “A world run by women would, fundamentally, be a more peaceful and equal one,” and that women “tend to be more collaborative in work and leadership, more empathetic, and much, much less violent on an individual level than men.” Problems like injustice and violence root from a lack of empathy, and so if a world run by women would ultimately be more peaceful and equal, where have we gone wrong?

According to Pew Research: “About two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of men and women alike, say it is easier for men than women to get elected to high political offices and to get top executive positions in business.” But why? The same study outlines the obstacles women face in obtaining positions of leadership in business and politics and the common thread is that women are held to higher standards than men, which makes it more difficult for women to achieve the same positions.

Even though in the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, women-led countries seem to be more successful in its handling than countries ran by men.

According to the New York Times: “Countries led by women seem to be particularly successful in fighting the coronavirus.” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has succeeded in not only controlling the virus, but eliminating it, leading to the end of the stay at home mandate.

An August 13 updated article in The New York Times reported that Germany has had fewer deaths than The United States, France, Italy and others, and Finland has fewer than 10% deaths as Sweden. The same article reported that Taiwan has been one of the most successful countries in dealing with Covid-19, utilizing testing, isolation measures, and contact tracing. New Zealand, Germany, Finland, and Taiwan are all countries led by women.

Even though women have more opportunities than decades ago, there is still work to be done in the areas of treatment in the workplace. In July 2020 U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her experience with sexism in the workplace, following an altercation with fellow U.S Representatives Ted Yoho and Roger Williams:

“…I was minding my own business, walking up the steps [of the Capitol], and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face, he called me disgusting, he called me crazy, he called me out of my mind. And he called me dangerous.”

Not many years ago, it would have been difficult for representative Ocasio-Cortez to even have a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, let alone have the opportunity to speak out about her experience with sexism within it. In a patriarchal world, representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others’ seats in the house are transformative for future female leaders. By seeing women in those roles, young women see there is hope in attaining leadership roles such as these.

If women are held to a higher standard than men, than men who act as Yoho did should be held accountable for their behavior. If sexism such as this continues to exist, it could lead to fewer women wanting to achieve positions of leadership, eventually leading to a lack of female representation in the workplace, in politics, and everything in between.

Female representation matters. New Mexico was just the first state to elect an all women of color House delegation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), and Ilhan Omar (MN-5) were all just reelected for another term in the House. Women like these are a crucial part of representation for young girls around the world. In this way, the U.S. has moved forward in a less sexist and more equal world. There is just still work to be done.

In a recent Milestone survey, 52.9% of respondents say they have been talked down to by their male counterparts, where only 11.8% say they have been talked down to by their female counterparts. Of the respondents, 47.1% say they have been ignored by their male colleagues, while only 29.4% say they have been ignored by other female colleagues. As Representative Ocasio-Cortez said in her response to Representative Yoho: “…It is cultural. It is a culture of a lack of impunity, of acceptance of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that… Dehumanizing language is not new… This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and the dehumanization of others.”

According to Pew Research: “About two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of men and women alike, say it is easier for men than women to get elected to high political offices and to get top executive positions in business.”

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