4 Things We Can Do in 2014 to Help Pave the Way for a Woman President
3. Encourage women as leaders: An important part of the change that is needed is to empower women and girls to see themselves as leaders and as agents of change in the world — and to not shy away from using their voices to advocate for what they believe in. Says Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, "It starts young. Girls are discouraged from leading at an early age. The word ‘bossy’ is largely applied to girls, not boys. I think we need to expect and encourage our girls and women to lead and contribute." Miss Representation filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom shared this telling statistic: “At the age of seven, like 30 percent across the board, boys and girls want to be president. And then at the age of thirteen, the numbers completely skew. You have one girl for every nine guys that want to be president.” Siebel Newsom believes the reason for that drop-off is that, “At ages ten to twelve, girls learn patriarchy. They learn their place in the world. They learn that there isn’t a seat for them at the table, that they aren’t the natural born leaders. That’s not truthful, but that’s what our society has constructed.” She feels the message we need to relay to girls is this: “You have a responsibility to all of us. We need your help. I think girls and women are our heroes and they need to start seeing themselves as our heroes and to come help us out of the mess that we’re in.”
MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, who is also a professor of political science at Tulane University, told me, “I am constantly telling the women in my classes that they should consider running for office, mostly because what we know is that when men are talented and when men are smart and when men show some leadership, it’s hard for them to even get to college without someone, at some point, asking them, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about running for office? Man, you would be a great president.’ Even as little tiny boys, right? ‘I bet you’ll be president someday.’ It turns out that we don’t have those same kinds of standard messages for girls. So if a woman is very talented and can remember people’s names and she shows a lot of interest in politics, we tend to say things like ‘Good job’ or ‘Here’s an A on your paper,’ but we don’t tend to say, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about running for office?’ Some of it is just the very basics of being recruited.”
4. Become an active, informed citizen: There are numerous ways we can all be a part of the change that is needed by supporting candidates and causes we believe in and getting involved. Gloria Steinem told me, "It means recognizing that the voting booth is the only place on Earth in which everybody’s equal—so, using it. We’re still not doing so well in percentages of who votes." Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi advocates we use our voices to push for campaign finance reform. “The environment I would like to see is one where the role of money is reduced and the level of civility is heightened. If you have less money and more civility, you will have more women. And that’s what we have to do: create our own environment. We’ve been operating in an environment that has not been friendly to the advancement of women, especially now that it’s become so harsh and so money driven.”
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivers this broader call to action to all women: "Do whatever you can do; it’s a question of: Are you voting? Are you being heard? Are there issues that you care about that you could advocate for and let your representatives know how important they are to you? Would you ever consider running for office? Really making that request of women’s participation across the board… We need to actually invite women to come to the table, both in corporate America and in political life, because we need their thoughts, views, and guidance on these very important decisions that our country is making.”
Find out what else these and other thought leaders had to say about what it will take to make a woman president by visiting www.womanpresidentbook.com.