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The Lack of Women in Positions of Power in the U.S.

Introduction

As it stands, the number of women in positions of power is demonstrably lower than that of men, which is a result of the systemic inequality present at the core of American society. The United States of America have long since build itself on the premises of equal opportunity, freedom and success. As one of the most developed nations of the world, it has a vast collection of natural and material resources to support its people. However, as noted by a variety of politicians, scholars, thinkers and other individuals, the actual ability of people to realize their ambition in the US has been incredibly limited throughout history. Various restrictions relating to a person’s identity, race, nationality, and income have traditionally been one of the defining factors regarding one’s self-actualization. The systemic inequality and inability of particular groups of people to gain access to power has shaped the way the country operates in the current day and age as well. While it is important to note that numerous strides have been made towards making the US a welcome place for its citizenry and a land of equal opportunity, much remains to be done and discussed in this effort.

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In particular, women can be seen as one of the groups influenced by this disparity the most. The combination of economic, social and political factors has made it so it is much rarer that women occupy political niches or have the ability to develop their career. The combination of pay and workplace differences, gender expectations, systematic poverty and a lack of government support has made it much harder for women to have influence over society in a meaningful overarching fashion. While there are obviously exceptions, and women can be successful in the political sphere, the general trends appear to be against them. It may be necessary to examine the reasons for their success in hopes of helping more individuals attain self-actualization. The attitudes towards the gender differences in power are varied, depending on the political affiliations and views of a particular group. Conservatives and Republicans generally see it as a reflection of the natural order of society and a necessary part of life, where women need to focus on supporting their families. Democrats, alternatively, see this as an issue of injustice and inadequate policy, which requires solving. The present discussion will focus on reviewing the core causes for women’s small political influence, and explaining their origins from multiple points of view.

Contributor’s to Women’s Current Position in Society

Poverty and Women in the US

First, it is important to establish a relationship between poverty and women in the United States. Both historically and currently, women have been more likely to end up in poverty, or struggle for survival. Before the shift towards job equality caused by the post-war need for workers, women largely occupied a specific set of jobs or stayed at home as wives and daughters. The inability to earn money for themselves and a restricted number of possible career options meant that most women needed their husbands or fathers to provide for them, creating a relationship of dependency. Consequently, that meant that a woman without their husband or other male figure could not effectively have savings or financial security of her own, contributing to a lack of generational wealth in the future.

In the modern times, some similar trends can be seen. Women are systematically more likely to end up in poverty or face financial trouble. This is even more prominent with women of color, or women of other vulnerable groups (Gaines, 2019). As shown by data from 2008, women are poorer than men in all demographics and races, including African-American, Hispanic, White and Asian people (Gaines, 2019). The majority of poor women are single with no children, followed by single mothers (Gaines, 2019). In terms of age poverty differences, the rates of poverty are noted to be similar in childhood for both men and women, notably diverging during the point of childbearing age. The inability to provide for themselves, save up money, or afford various commodities limits the ability of people to advance up the social ladder and exercise their political voice. Money is an important tool for political participation and inclusion in the leading segments of government, meaning that women are less statistically likely to be able to participate in partisanship. Additionally, the increased rates of poverty limits access to higher education. With the current system of college and university education, those in poverty are unlikely to be able to afford tuition or pay off their debts (Understanding how poverty is the main barrier to education). The lack of proper education, therefore, limits access to high-paying jobs and positions, which denies women a chance to occupy positions of power. In connection to this discussion, a much larger number of women work part-time than men, due to a need for more freedom in their scheduling. This, in turn, also restricts their income and employment status (Women and Poverty in America). This data can be interpreted in a variety of ways to understand why this disparity exists.

In particular, many republicans seem to believe that it is a result of choice. As it stands, women more often choose jobs that pay less, and therefore earn less (Field, 2018). The divergence in outcomes therefore is a result of women’s own choices and decisions, making it justified. Liberals, on the other hand, usually continue this discussion further, outlining the connection between society and the dispositions of many women. In particular, it can be noted that many women are afraid or going into male-dominated fields because of harassment, or social stigma. Additionally, the lack of social benefits regarding child leave and pregnancy-related issues is a big consideration for this group. Oftentimes, field mainly lead by men do not offer women the ability for flexible employment which is needed to take care of a child, which forces many to choose other careers or settle for working part-time. Overall, the increased rates of poverty among women limit their opportunities for acquiring professional and political power.

History and the Pay Gap

In connection with poverty, wages have always been one of the driving factors behind an capacity to gain power, and one of the key determinants of one’s success in life. With receiving high pay, comes the ability to afford more tools of education, self-improvement and growth. Additionally, money allows people more financial stability and the capacity to take risks, which are both necessary to advance up the social ladder. Without a high paying, regular job, a person is much less likely to succeed in life or be able to support themselves and others. Due to these reasons, the existence of a pay gap between men and women is a considerable problem.

Historically, there has been a lack of legislation protecting women from pay discrimination for the majority of their time in the workplace, leading to lower wages and less accumulation of wealth. Up until 1963, no particular law existed to ensure that employers have to indiscriminately pay workers (Equal pay act of 1963 and Lilly Ledbetter Fair pay act of 2009). While a lot of materials have been written in regards to this particular problem, the majority of sources agree that there is a difference in the average amount of money men and women receive. As estimated, in 2020, women in the same age category earned around 93 cents for each dollar a man earned (Barroso & Brown, 2021). This difference was far more prominent in the past, and differs in accordance with age, position, education levels and occupation (Barroso & Brown, 2021). The difference in pay can also be justified through different outlooks, ranging from sexism to systematic differences between the genders.

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In regards to partisan opinion on the gender pay gap, the opinions also differ wildly. As seen by the recent legislative issue in senate, the republican participants have blocked the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would work towards eliminating workplace discrimination due to gender preference (Mueller, 2021). The bill, pushed by the democrats, has already been blocked twice, with the most recent case occurring in 2021, demonstrating the attitudes towards the issue from the conservative side of the argument (Mueller, 2021). Republicans seem to continuously deny the existence of this problem, or justify it with women’s choice of profession. In contrast, democrats work on a state and nation-wide basis to work on bringing more legislation into action to protect women.

Gender Roles and Power

Gender roles and expectations are a vital part of the discussion regarding power relations, and one of the facets of daily life for any person in and outside the US. Gender is a term that is used to define and understand how a particular person should act, and how others interact with them within the constraints of society. Due to some emergent differences between the primary genders on the spectrum – Male and Female, a different set of expectations exists for both. The majority of these expectations were shaped by history, with each nation having its own specific view on gender and its influence on how people must act.

However, the particular dichotomy of gender roles that is prevalent today has become the norm around the time of the Cold War, when the focus on individuality and achievement was put in opposition to the socialist order of the Soviet Union. The need to establish an image of a separate, unique and ambition driven society signaled the creation of the Nuclear Family as the primary form of organizing the smallest social groups. With the creation of a male-female duality in leading families, came the expectation that women and men should fulfill their own distinct roles. Much of the organized view on gender roles came from physical and social differences of genders, including a difference in power, income and the ability of women to bear children. The social circumstances effectively meant that many women had to occupy positions of mothers and wives, being responsible for homemaking and child raising. A man, in turn, was supposed to provide monetary and social support to his family. This dichotomy has largely shaped the way many people nowadays think about the capabilities of genders, and the associations that come with seeing a man or a woman. Additionally, they contribute towards each gender’s self perception and views on the world, acting as a self-perpetuating mechanism to prolong this social structure. With the advancement of civil rights and the rights of women, as well as the expansion of the workforce, much more of them began seeing themselves as active participants in social and political life, giving rise to feminism and other movements.

In the current day and age, women are mostly seen as having the same ability for self-fulfillment as men, and the capacity to work or pursue their passions. This outcome was created as a result of both the success of previous social movements and capitalism, which saw the female populace as a good potential demographic to create more profit. However, some of the lasting effects of the nuclear family as a concept still exist, and the presence of gender roles as a concept is still a necessary part of society. Their impact concerns the expectations that society has of women, their occupations and abilities as people, and their capacity for political participation as well. Due to the prevalent view of the past being that women have to take care of children and act as homemakers, their direction of growth is more tightly connected with private life, while boys are encouraged to focus on the surrounding society.

Influenced by teaching practices, history, and their parent’s views on the world, children grow with a particular outlook on the world, and their role in it (Qypi, 2017). There are obvious exceptions to this tendency, but the general trend cannot be overlooked. Additionally, the prevalence of outdated gender roles limits women’s political participation in society, oftentimes leading to resistance to women’s capacity to be agents or change or influence. Views of the majority impact people’s voting decisions, readiness to support female candidates, and their ability for effective political advocacy. This includes the monetary support female politicians receive from the public and their donors, and overall outreach they can expect to amass in their work. The views on gender roles are varied within the political landscape of the US, with both republicans and democrats holding a heavily ranging set of expectations for men and women.

Generally, though, conservative political actors seem to gravitate towards the idea that the traditional gender roles are important to the identity of America, and the stability of its social order. The conservative political journalist discusses the apparently destructive effect feminism has had on the family and its financial capacity to support itself (Charen, 2018). Gender roles are essentially seen as an inherent part of the social order, with the position of women as internally-focused homemakers being one of the most important needs for a proper and stable society. Liberal democrats, on the other hand, largely act with the desire to expand the acceptable range of female behaviors, methods of participation and expression, which in turn should act as a way to improve their capacity for political action. Additionally, the expansion of gender roles is seen as a way to help more women achieve higher professional competency, and expand their outreach into professions that are generally seen as less feminine.

Women that Have Succeeded

Despite the differences outlined in this discussion previously, a large number of women have still been able to succeed and reach positions of prominence both professionally and in the government. In particular, a number of women can be noted in the recent years to occupy positions of political influence and power. One of them is Kamala Harris, the current Vice-President of the United States of America, and the first African-American and Asian-American woman to occupy this position. Coming from a considerably wealthy and influential family, Kamala has had both the personal ambition and the ability to rise above her competition (Kamala Harris). Earning a law degree, the woman has managed to demonstrate political independence, harshness and a law-respecting nature. Overall, it can be said that the combination of her personal qualities, education, upbringing and family status allowed Kamala to succeed in life. Her example has shown that dedication and hard work is a necessary factor for success for women in the US, but the existence of a significant financial and social net is also a requirement for success.

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Another woman who has achieved a lot during her political career is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is an influential liberal politician and the advocate for many social programs. Currently, AOC is a congress representative and an integral part of American politics. Despite a rather usual upbringing, she has managed to receive good education and secure a spot in the Democratic party as one of the socialist candidates (Cillizza, 2021). Currently, she remains one of the most talked-about women in American politics, being a point of various debates and discussions (Cillizza, 2021). However, her active participation in politics and involvement in various social policies created to help the majority of American people are worthy of consideration. As seen with many other women of prominence, she has arrived to her positon through effort and education.

Conclusion

Overall, it can be said that the involvement of women in politics and the presence of women in positions of power is a complex subject in need of discussion. As shown by statistics, women are represented considerably less in political advocacy and jobs with high degrees of political influence. A variety of factors influence women’s capacity to affect the nation they live in. In particular, the disparities in poverty statistics limit women’s ability to receive good education and realize their ambition, making efforts of affecting larger society ineffective. Additionally, the differences in wages, occupations and expectations placed on both genders find their reflection in unequal opportunities and outcomes.

Women systematically find less support in their endeavors outside of the family life, and are generally expected to focus on the internal instead of the external. The differing views of the two political forces in the US see this disparity as either a necessary part of life or a problem in need of changing. In the case of the republicans, the focus on women on home-making and their general absence from positions of power is a historically-created optimal way to organize society, while democrats usually perceive it as an obstacle towards creating a more diverse and liberal nation. Due to the influence both parties and their action has on the wellbeing of women, their capacity for self-expression, self-realization and freedom, one side of the issue must be chosen. It is necessary to support the democratic approaches that seek to make the US women more capable of enacting change in their own lives and the lives of others, bringing more varied opinions to the work of leading the country forward.

Works Cited

Barroso, A., & Brown, A. (2021). Gender pay gap in U.S. held steady in 2020. Pew Research Center. Web.

Charen, M. (2018). Feminism has destabilized the American family. New York Post. Web.

Cillizza, C. (2021). Analysis: The stunning political power of AOC. CNN. Web. Web.

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Kamala Harris. Encyclopædia Britannica. Web.

Equal pay act of 1963 and Lilly Ledbetter Fair pay act of 2009. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Web.

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Field, K. (2018). Why are women still choosing the lowest-paying jobs? The Atlantic. Web.

Gaines, A. C. (2019). The straight facts on women in poverty. Center for American Progress. Web.

Mueller, E. (2021). Senate Republicans block bill targeting gender pay gap. POLITICO. Web.

Qypi, Kristina. “THE IMPACT OF THE NUCLEAR FAMILY IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GENDER ROLES IN CHILDREN BETWEEN 3 AND 7 YEARS AGE.” European Journal of Social Sciences Studies [Online], 0 (0): n. pag. Web. 2021

Understanding how poverty is the main barrier to education. Global Citizen. (n.d.). Web.

Women and Poverty in America. Legal Momentum. (n.d.). Web.

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