Thursday, June 12, 2008

women in public life

Today's New York Times brings another columnist calling for a speech on gender discrimination--but this time, the author is a male, Nicholas Kristof, and he's suggesting Barack Obama deliver it--calling it Clinton's "missed opportunity." Kristof includes this striking bit of data on how women are represented in public life:
Presumably in part because of sexism (and also because of self-selection), women today are still hugely underrepresented in the political arena. Women constitute about 23 percent of legislators in the 50 states, a proportion that has risen only slightly in the last decade. In addition, the political commentariat is overwhelmingly male, which is one reason that Mrs. Clinton’s supporters felt unfairly battered.
That caught my eye because, of course, public office comes with a public platform, an expectation that you will find and use your voice. And we know most women prefer intimate or rapport-building talk to public speaking--yet women are erroneously tagged as "talking too much." I'd love to see any candidate who wants to tackle gender issues take on the hurdles women face in expressing themselves publicly. UPDATE: This must be the topic of the day: WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show has a discussion of new research on the intersection of gender and politics and why the United States doesn't elect as many women to office as other countries. Go here later today to hear the audio.

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