Last night I attended The John Glenn School of Public Affairs "Women in Leadership" lecture, featuring Marie Wilson. Marie is the founder of The White House Project, former president of The MS. Foundation, and co-creator of Take Our Daughters To Work Day.
This gal has so much goin on, we could just replace the word feminist with Wilsonette!
The evening began when OSU VIP Barbara Snyder took the stage to introduce Senator John Glenn. She did a great job, but mistakenly said Glenn was a fighter pilot in WWI, instead of WWII. Glenn won the hearts of the audience as he feigned a heart attack and hobbled to the podium, hunched over in dependence of his imaginary cane, before launching into an energetic introduction of Wilson, the featured speaker and honoree.
Marie opened with praise for the Senator, and drew an analogy of his career, comparing it to a cubist art piece in the Wexner Center, celebrating space exploration. The crowd erupted in applause when she summed up by stating "Women have always had to think outside the box in order to get anywhere, and since John thinks outside the box too, I think we should make him an honorary woman!"
She then spoke on the need for women in leadership, and reminded us, that even though 87% of The American People support the idea of women in leadership roles, The United States is ranked 67th in the world regarding women representation in politics. In recent election cycles, women have been loosing ground, as women leaders in State legislatures has dropped from 24% to as low as 16%. She cited a recent story of success in Norway. A law was passed requiring all public companies to have a 40% ratio of women representing their boards of directors. When first debated, the law caused an uproar of controversy, but in spite of detractors, the law was passed and, the goal achieved in less than two years. By thinking outside of the box, the women of Norway succeeded to create positive progressive change for their country.
What if a law were passed in the United States, requiring our congress to accurately reflect the demographics of our populations? What would our government be like if we had true representation for people of all race and gender? What if districts were drawn by cultural communities instead of geographic location? Radical? Yes, but an example of thinking outside of the box in a way that could lead our country to a more representative form of democracy.
One of the major problems women candidates face, is what Wilson referred to as "Hair, Hemline and Husband" issues. When only one woman is running against a pack of men, the media does not report her stance on the issues, rather, they discuss her hair, hemline or husband. Even Hillary Rodham Clinton has been quoted as saying "If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle."
Another issue, according to White House Project studies, is that women wait to be asked before running for office. Men see other men in positions of power, and assume they could aspire to the same goals, so they "just run." Women on the other hand, wait to be invited, and then, before running, they seek training. Hmmmm. Imagine that.
"In this position as the leader of The White House Project, I have been given a magical power." Wilson said, while mystically waving her had over the audience with an impish grin. "If you do not invite a woman to run for office in the next twenty four hours, something very bad will happen to each and every one of you."
Women in general, do not have the arrogance of men. They operate from a sense of humility and acute personal critique. "Women set the bar so high for themselves. They seek personal perfection, before considering positions of power." Said Wilson. "We have this desire and expectation that the first woman president be perfect." That is simply not possible. "I'm Tired of it!" She exclaimed. "We need [to view women candidates with a sense of] REALITY!" We need to reset the bar, and put women in proper perspective as leaders. When expectations of women are twice as high as their male counterparts, we cut our progress in half.
She went on to explain, many women avoid the political arena because of the culture of negativity and personal attacks. Women do not see this as appropriate or honorable behavior. But to create change, "We've gotta take it on!" She cried. "We are not in the gender business when we do this work, we are in the transformation business, and OUR TIME HAS COME!"
"The single most important difference in the gender gap of politics, is that women really believe the role of politics is to SERVE the PEOPLE," not gain power. Women's voices are needed in the political arena for this very reason, and not just one or two, but many. When we achieve a critical mass of women in office, the idea of women as leaders will be normalized. Women will then take their rightful place as fully participating citizens, and use their voices to bring balance to political ideology. Women have so much to offer beyond hemlines and hair. The time has come for us to prove it. The time has come for us to use it. Our time is NOW.
On a side note, my daughter just received honor roll recognition for her 3.84 GPA.
I gave her a big hug and said "Keep it up honey, and you just might be Ms. President someday."