Friday, May 6, 2016

Could a Clinton Presidency Finally Shatter the Glass Ceiling?

For the first time in Canada’s history, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed equal numbers men and women to his cabinet when he took office last year.  When asked why, Trudeau stated simply, “Because its 2015.” Meanwhile in the United States, liberal presidential candidates consistently promise to promote women and people of color, but avoid naming exact quotas. Hillary Clinton might just be the one to change that.  Last week in an interview on MSNBC, Clinton pledged to break up the Old Boy’s Club if elected, telling Rachel Maddow, "I am going to have a cabinet that looks like America, and 50 percent of America is women, right?"

American hesitance to set quotas is not shared by much of the world, where quotas have helped propel women into leadership positions.  Rwanda, Costa Rica, Chile and France are just a few of the 28 countries ranked ahead of the United States by the 2015 UN Women’s Index of women in ministerial positions. Finland stands as number one, with 62.5% women in the ministry.

A 50-50 split in the U.S. cabinet would require doubling the current number of women. Political and gender analysts say Clinton is positioned to accomplish this feat given her track record of appointing women to leadership roles and her network of qualified female candidates. Beyond the number of women in the cabinet, certain departments have historically been open to women, while others have remained sealed. The Department of Heath and Human Services, for example, has had five female heads. Conversely, a woman has never headed the Departments of Defense, Treasury, or Veteran Affairs. This gendered discrepancy reveals some ingrained norms (i.e. women as caretakers, men as soldiers; women as emotional and nurturing, men as aggressive and analytical).

If she keeps her promise, a Clinton presidency could dramatically alter the governance of the United States. And if Finland is any indication, this change could be extremely beneficial. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of Twenty first, a consulting company dedicated to gender equity in business, says, “companies with more gender-balanced leadership teams significantly outperform companies with only men at the helm. Why wouldn’t this be even more true at a country level?” (Not so) Coincidently, Finland boasts the best public school system in the world, paid maternity leave and subsidized childcare. Wittenberg-Cox notes these topics are only taken seriously when women gain political representation. 

Could Clinton’s pledge to advance other women be the final shove against the cracking glass ceiling? Only time will tell. But we are hopeful, and we will hold Hillary to her promise.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern

Monday, April 25, 2016

"A Woman's Place Is On The Money"

Many of you have heard of the Treasury’s commitment to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bill. The push for change officially started last Spring under the direction of Women on 20s, a nonprofit campaign dedicated to recognizing the often overlooked contributions of women to American history.  Lawmakers Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D.-NH) and Rep. Luis GutiĆ©rrez (D.-IL) were the first to sign on, both introducing bills last April to get a woman on the 20.  Dozens of lawmakers have since joined the movement. After narrowing pool from 100 American heroines to 15, Women on 20 published an online poll asking which woman voters would most like to see represented on our currency. Over half a million voters chose Harriet Tubman, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt as the four finalists.  In the second round, Tubman won 33.6% of the 352,341 votes cast, solidifying her as the winner. After a year’s work, the Treasury has agreed to accelerate the production of the new $20. Despite backlash, they plan to keep Andrew Jackson on the back of the new $20, a decision many find offensive considering Tubman’s enslavement and Jackson’s slave-owning.

In addition to Tubman, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced his intention to complete a large-scale redesigning of numerous bills by 2020 to commemorate the hundred-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. The $10 will feature (albeit on the back) suffragists/abolitionists Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Lucretia Mott. Lew also suggested displaying historical events at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, on the back of the $5.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern