Throughout all but recent human history men have predominantly held the reins of political power in every part of the world. In more recent times the female gender has made progress regarding the political glass ceiling. Local, state and federal legislatures are still far from being equally represented but significant inroads have been made because, as time passes, people are becoming increasingly likely to vote for a woman as fewer harbor longstanding gender biases.
Still, those old preconceptions make it more difficult for women to succeed in gaining political office. Female candidates find they must have superior qualifications, a better understanding of issues and a more effective means of communicating ideas than their male counterparts as many voters continue to perceive men as better leaders. Even voters who insist they would happily vote for a woman president have subconscious biases against women politicians because, in part, men have been the customary leaders and are still predominantly found in positions of authority. Gender does make a difference in the political arena. Women still aren’t viewed as equal to men so they must try harder which often makes them stronger candidates.
Male candidates have the advantage of tradition and perceived superior leadership skills. Additionally, men do not have to endure sexist attitudes while campaigning for office. Women candidates’ appearance, personality and choice of clothing are disproportionately scrutinized. Men are seldom questioned as to their temperament or if they are mentally tough enough to make crucial, life and death decisions. Despite the considerable progress made in society’s understanding of women’s rights over the past half century, women are still limited by stereotypical, out of style gender responsibilities, specifically, bearing the main responsibility for household duties including childcare. In the minds of many, as society transitions from a strictly patriarchal mindset to a gender neutral understanding, having women participate in politics is fine as long as they continue in their traditional female role as homemaker.
A gap remains in the political realities for men and women. Gender roles, still taught seemingly without thought from an early age, hinder women’s chances to be elected due to public perceptions of those roles therefore their ability to perform their duties when elected. Girls are not taught to be competitive with the same fervor as boys consequently are not as confident when trading rhetorical blows with a political opponent. This deficit of competitive confidence must be overcome by the female politician in a relatively short amount of time and under the incredible duress of a political campaign. Although the general perception of gender roles is changing most still perceive men to be tough-minded when strongly stating a position while a woman is still thought of as acting emotionally when she does the same.
It’s been an ongoing reality that women are more effective politicians. They write more pieces of legislation and obtain a greater number of co-sponsors for bills than do men. The fact that it’s tougher for women on the campaign trail and then after they become elected must fight the same biases of the good ole boy network in the legislative body makes them better politicians. For example, Jackie Robinson was a great major league baseball player who broke the ‘color barrier.’ He knew he had to try harder and be better than the white players to be accepted as an equal due to racial biases. It’s the same with women politicians.
Gender does make a difference for political candidates. Woman face perception obstacles men do not but ultimately the tougher road to public office makes them better qualified for the responsibility. Traditional gender roles are as old as humanity itself and while women have come a long way in the past half century, those roles persist in the minds of many, even those who feel perfectly comfortable voting for a woman.