Will America Ever Elect a Female President? Only If We Reclaim the F-Word

01/11/2017 09:51 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2017

Now it’s not what you’re thinking.

Although I AM mad enough to cuss, that’s not the F-word I’m referring to. 2016, the election, this world has another F-word on the tip of my tongue.

Feminism.

We all have our preconceived notions and understanding of what we think feminism is, was or is going to be. But let’s just define it for all intents and purposes as to where we are now, and where we need to go from here.

Feminism is a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. (Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism)

So that seems fairly clear-cut, doesn’t it? But why isn’t it then? Why is it that feminism and feminists evoke such negative connotations?

Reason #1: Feminism is misunderstood.

A lot of people associate bad things with the terminology of “being a feminist.” And it’s time to reframe and redefine what it truly means.

Malala is a wonderful example of a person who, at one time, did not want to be referred to as a “feminist.” She misunderstood the true meaning of the word. She tells her story in her book, I Am Malala. And she spoke with Emma Watson during a 2015 recorded interview posted on The Guardian entitled, Malala Yousafzai speaks with Emma Watson: feminism is another word for equality.

The Guardian reports in their November 5, 2015, article:

Malala told Emma Watson that the actor’s speech to world leaders made her change her mind about not describing herself as a feminist. Yousafzai, a Nobel peace prize winner, said she initially thought feminism was a “tricky word” but now believed everyone should be a feminist…“It has been a tricky word. When I heard it the first time I heard some negative responses and some positive ones. I hesitated in saying am I feminist or not?Then after hearing your [Emma Watson’s] speech I decided there’s no way and there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist. So I’m a feminist and we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality.” Malala continues by saying that men “have to step forward” to promote equality of the sexes.

So in redefining and reframing feminism, I can think of no better terminology to use than Malala’s words: feminism is another word for equality. Period. Not women getting ahead. Not women seeking to be better than men. Simply, equality for women.

Reason #2: Women still have to be twice as good as men to get the support from both men and women in order to be appointed to top leadership positions.

We have all read the statistics from corporate America regarding women in leadership positions. The 2016 Fortune 500 list includes just 21 companies with women at the helm—compared to 24 last year and in 2014. Or, to look at it another way, women now hold a paltry 4.2% of CEO positions in America’s 500 biggest companies.

But what about world leadership positions? How do women stand there?

There are currently 18 female world leaders, including 12 female heads of government and 11 elected female heads of state (some leaders are both and figurehead monarchs are not included), according to United Nations data. These women account for about one-in-ten of today’s leaders of United Nations member states. Half of them are the first women to hold their country’s highest office.

And the United States is still not on this list.

According to Pew Research, while the number of female leaders has more than doubled since 2005, a woman in power is hardly the norm around the world.

63 of 142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum have had a female head of government or state at some point in the 50 years up to 2014, but in nearly two-thirds of those nations a woman was in power for less than four of the 50 years – including 11 countries (17%) where a woman led for less than a year.

Another 2015 Pew Research Center report on women and leadership found that 38% of Americans believe one major reason there aren’t more women in top elective office in the U.S. is that they are held to higher standards than men. A similar share (37%) says the nation is just not ready to elect female leaders. What it boils down to is BIAS.

Why is that? In part, due to our next reason.

Reason #3: Women need to learn how to support other women and overcome their own biases.

In a November 9, 2016, article in Daily News entitled, Poll shows Hillary Clinton would have won the election if women backed her like Obama, writer Greg Smith shares,

The crucial supporters Hillary Clinton needed to send her to the White House didn’t show up the way she needed — especially women. The truth is that women don’t see other women as strong leaders. The bias that they hold has been shaped by society. It’s time to let go of outdated beliefs that limit our ability to tap into the power of women...Surprisingly, President-elect Donald Trump attracted a higher percentage of white women than Clinton — 53% to her 43%, the CNN exit poll data show. But among women of color, she trounced him, winning 94% of black women’s support, and 68% of Hispanic women voters.

Why did this happen? Because, plainly stated, women simply do not support other women.

Do you think that your daughter is as good as your son? Are you raising your daughter to believe that she can be anything that she wants to be? Or are you secretly a non-believer when it comes to the power of women?

We each need to ask ourselves some tough questions as a result of this election. Are we truly pursuing equality for women? Or are we just giving it lip-service?

If you and I do not call ourselves feminists and walk out equality for women every day in every decision and action we take, then we are not pursuing equality for women. And we are part of the problem.

We have to fix that. And in doing so, fix part of our broken country.

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