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The Lack of Women in Politics

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Studies show that female interest in politics has increased, while their political involvement remains stagnant. A mere 18 percent of women in the United States participate in leadership positions in the United States government. This figure is less than that of the developing nation of Uganda at 49 percent, a dramatically small figure considering the many factors that have propelled women forward in the political and business frontier within the last century. While some people acknowledge, with gratitude, that women have reached gender parity, this gratitude should not be a platform for complacency --"gratitude never radicalized anybody." Several factors have negatively impacted female participation in United States politics, above all: responsibility for childcare, belief in their qualification for the position, and confidence in their ability.

In spite of significant progress made for women's rights, women are still confined to stereotypical gender roles, namely, bearing significant responsibility for childcare and household affairs. A survey conducted by the American University of Washington D.C. in 2001 supports this fact. The same survey conducted a decade later in 2011 shows little has changed regarding women's familial responsibilities. The problem with women in politics does not lie merely in the presumption that women are burdened with family responsibilities, but rather because there is a cultural idea for women to harmonize the role of "working woman" with quintessential housewife. This desire to achieve a "balance" illuminates the complexity in choices faced by women, inapplicable to men. The phrase "having it all" is a myth that impedes upon ambition, until a single basic truth is revealed: no one can have it all. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, "Being a working parent means making adjustments, compromises and sacrifices every day." Dispelling such belief in superhuman gender roles (and in effect, recognizing that women are human) will lend power to the rise of female politicians and opportunities in the United States.

Belief in political qualification provides the largest platform for the absences of women in politics. Studies by the American University in 2011 survey indicate that "men are 60 percent more likely than women to believe that they are "very qualified" to run for office." This research begs the question as to whether belief in qualification stems from ingrained gender perceptions in comparison to ability. Researchers Kathryn Pearson from the University of Minnesota and Eric McGhee from the Public Policy Institute of California suggest that women are equally as qualified as men in political affairs, in most cases, even more qualified than their male counterparts. Deficiency of political knowledge provides correlation between the the doubt women face and lack of political candidacy. The lack of political knowledge stems from a lesser degree of consumption of politically based media, concluding that the majority of news is "male-biased."

Lack of confidence and competitiveness in the political arena are compromised in the face of media and public attention. Traits that are necessary in political office, namely confidence and competitiveness, are traits that women are taught to refrain from and men taught to embrace. Research indicates that overconfidence is counterintuitive in business-related affairs. Women's doubt in their ability (translating to increased cautiousness) has lead to more productivity in the business world in contrast to a lagging productivity in the political sphere. Gendered perception proves to be the enemy in lack of political candidates in the United States, when compared to performance.

The aforementioned evidence indicates that the greatest enemy in the political sphere is the deeply gendered stereotypes and lingering sexism that impede political ambition: the difference between the male and female political experience. To narrow the gender gap between men and women in politics it is imperative that it is understood that the root of the problem does not necessarily relate to a lack of interest, rather a lack of ambition to carry out political candidacy in a politically male-dominated world.