It is Time to Stop Thinking about Our Dreams and Act on Them

“I thought about running for president… I would love to have had the right timing.  But, timing is everything in life,” Senator Kay Bailey of Texas said this on Wednesday.  How many other women have felt this way?  Have you felt this way?

When I was younger I had dreams myself of running for President one day, but today I’ve come to find myself questioning those dreams.  As Senator Bailey said the timing just doesn’t seem to ever be right.  As children we don’t understand all of our other responsibilities, but one has to wonder if we acted on our “childish dreams,” what would this country look like?

Women hold only 17% of the seats in Congress, only 22% of all statewide elective executive office positions are currently held by women, state legislatures are only 24% women, and only 6 out of 50 states have a female governor.  In a nation where 51% of its citizens are women these statistics make one wonder where are all the women?

But not everybody is wondering this.  With Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin consistently in the news many people see them and think there are women in politics.  As a woman thinking about running for political office one day this notion makes me seriously concerned for the rest of this country.  Two women who have been beaten and bashed by the media over and over again are our best representation for women in politics, seriously?  Two women do not represent 51% of this country properly.

So many times people have said we need more women in Congress, more women need to take on leadership positions, where are the women?  These statements are all very true, but they are just statements.  To truly see more women taking on leadership positions we must tap individuals, and we must support and help them run for office.  Campaigning and winning an election is the first step in seeing more women in positions of higher office, but that first step is a pretty big one to take alone.

Many women believe that, that is a step they must take alone.  This belief and the notions that there are plenty of women in politics are perpetuated from a patriarchical system that is unwilling to change or adapt.  Because of this, this year we will see several key female Senators and Congresswomen step down. Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Kay Bailey, Congresswoman Sue Myrick, and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords are just a few of the many.  With only 17% of congress represented by women today, what will that percentage after this year look like-14, 10, 7 percent?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t sound or look good for Congress and women.

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers said last week that, ““It’s still relatively new to see women serving in all these positions and taking on more leadership.”  While this is true, should we let this newness scare us from trying?  I think not. This is just one example of how the political system and the society that we live in are unwilling to see women in leadership positions.  To help women and to see more women in leadership positions we should be focusing on changing society and the way we define leadership roles.

I understand that I am a junior in College and that the change I’m asking for is not going to happen over night.  But I think if we do not look to the future and beyond we will remain stuck in time, and nothing will ever change.  To be sure this isn’t everybody’s dream, but for those who have thought about this it is time to act.

The system starts with us; we are the system.  To see change and more women in politics, we-the women of this nation- must run.  So we may lose our first time, and the media is going to ridicule and pry into our personal lives, and the timing may not be exactly right.  If we wait for these things to adjust, more and more women will leave Congress and there will be nobody there to inspire a new generation to step up.  Two women are not enough to represent truly what the women of this nation believe.  We represent 51% of this nation, and it is time we represent 51% of this nation in Congress.  It is time to act on our “childish dreams.”

2 thoughts on “It is Time to Stop Thinking about Our Dreams and Act on Them

  1. It’s funny because I am just enough older than you to view this in a different light. When I grew up and even when I was at Duke there were even fewer women in Congress and maybe one or two in the Senate. The idea of a woman president was only given serious thought when Walter Mondale selected Gerraldine Ferraro to be his running mate in 1984. Women CEOs were even fewer and far between and men still outnumbered women by fairly large numbers in law schools. So to me, while there is still so much work to be done, there are still lots of gains to be recognized and to be proud of. In some ways, women’s opportunities have never been greater and yet I see your view too and how it looks from your perspective.

    I wonder too, if part of this isn’t related to the ongoing – and newly current – debates about women’s ability to have it all and what that means.

    Maybe it helps to appreciate how far we’ve come even in looking at how far we still have left to go.

  2. Caroline, thank you for this wonderful piece on women in politics. I really liked how you not only talked about the barriers women face, but you give very reasonable solutions.

    If you are running for a position at Duke or the presidency in the White House, you got my vote.

    p.s. I still have my President Barbie from when I was a kid wishing to be the first woman president one day.

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