Women in Politics: What’s the Future?

November 11, 2009 | NeW Staff

Today, I stumbled upon a very interesting column written by Meghan McCain titled, “Hillary and Sarah’s Common Theme.”  Huh, I wondered, how can the two be alike at all?

But then, I became really intrigued by McCain’s discussion.  She pointed out the ways she feels that these women both have been treated unfairly.  Both have risen in the political realm, but not without criticism, and McCain questions, Can women ever really rise to their full potential in politics? Or is it truly a man’s world?  Will a woman ever be President?  Will politics forever be misogynistic? 

I think she raises some thoughtful questions and points out similar criticisms of Palin and Clinton.  The question I ask, though, why do we see a common thread with women in politics?  Does this mean women will never be successful in the political world?  Well, I think if we look in history, women have already achieved great success in politics.  Just look at Margaret Thatcher.  Particularly this week, with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps we can see just how courageous and tough one woman has been in history.

However, we can’t ignore some basic facts about women as we evaluate women’s potential in politics.  Do all women really want to be politicians?  Particularly, when you factor children into the equation, having a career in politics, particularly at younger age would be difficult for some women.  And then there’s the question, do most women have the thick skin that’s required for politicking?

These are some questions to ponder.  I think there are several things to take away from this discussion. First of all, we should step back and recognize the great gains made by women as they have advanced in the political sphere and the unique perspective they have brought to the table.  Second, I think conservative women have a particularly important role to play in politics today, and I’m excited for the potential.  But the most important thing I think we should take away is recognizing the ways in which women are different from men and how this plays out in politics.  Sometimes, I feel we try so hard to fit a square peg into a round hole as we try to say what women should and shouldn’t do.  There are those women who may be designed perfectly for a career in politics, and I think we should encourage them and celebrate their achievements.  But for those of us who’d prefer to sit on the sidelines and recognize that we aren’t made for a political career, then that’s okay too.  

I just can’t help but wonder if this is a field that men might always dominate.  And let me be clear, it’s not because I believe there is inherent sexism and the “glass ceiling” in politics, but I’d argue it’s because of gender makeup.  The female sex as a whole just may not want to pursue the career of politician.  And hey, I can think of plenty of jobs that women will always outrank men in.  And I don’t hear men crying, “Sexism!” in the nursing or teaching profession when women continue to outnumber men in these jobs.  Do you?
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