As we celebrate National Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women in the United States the right to vote, we also must take a hard look at the current position of women’s equality. One of the ongoing issues of our times in terms of women’s equality is income disparity and the overall prorogation of the equality movement.
Monroe County is no exception to the inequality women face. According to Data USA, women in the county are making roughly 1.26 times less than males in the same career fields and are far more likely to be living in poverty than males past the age of 24. Combatting these issues not only depends on public policy shifts toward ensuring equal pay, but also on our education system preparing young girls to enter to the work force ready to negotiate salary and prepared for fiscal independence. In order to start seeing change in the public sector, we need to start seeing more women in office.
Despite women consisting of 51% of the US population and turning out to vote in larger numbers than men since 1980, they represent only 21% of the Senate and 19% in the House of Representatives. The major contributor to this disparity between voters and representation? Not enough women are running.
A major disadvantage for women running for public office isn’t that they are elected at unequal rates, but rather that they aren’t encouraged at the same rate as their male counterparts. Politico polls state that two of the largest indicators for future political involvement were parental encouragement and involvement in activities such as sports leagues. Many women believe they are unqualified to run due to harsh standards placed upon themselves and are far less encouraged by parents, friends, and teachers to run for office than males. When presented with future career opportunities, women aren’t approached by political parties or affiliations to encourage running or offer support.
Encouraging young women to run for office is only the first step in advancing equal rights and representation for women. We must also show them strength and not treat them any differently than males in our approach to showing them courage and confidence. Girls are taught to be collectivists, to nurture, and to remain humble by lack of recognition. Running for office requires a certain level of confidence women aren’t encouraged to develop. Reaching girls at younger ages to teach them to be confident and bold is crucial to getting future generations of women involved in politics and receiving equal pay. Financial independence and healthy risk taking need to be a core part of a girl’s development in the modern world. Presenting a future in politics as a legitimate possibility to young girls can spark a change in the representation we see at the local and national level.