The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Gender Equity: Women’s Plight in Politics

WJ has never had a female SGA president in the past eight years. In addition, out of the three females who have been on the SGA in the past eight years, all three have held the position of secretary. Still, WJ at least has had female presidents of individual grades, and certainly has had female presidents of many clubs.

As for the disparities within the SGA at WJ, the facts may not be surprising, given that disparities between female and male leaders are rampant in this country as a whole. Though women make up 51 percent of the population of the United States, the percentage of women in Congress – the legislative body that is supposed to represent the entire country – is only 17 percent.

 You may think this is “just the way things are,” since women only received the right to vote less than a century ago. However, in the midterm election of 2010, the number of women elected to political positions actually decreased for the first time since 1979. Also, in the ranking of countries by the World Economic Forum, based on how well the country reduced gender disparities from 2010 to 2011, the United States just entered the top 20 at rank 17, behind several European countries.

 However, Delegate Anne Kaiser of the 14th district of Maryland is one woman who never doubted her path to political leadership.

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 “I wanted to run for office since I was five years old,” she said. “[There was just] something [that attracted me] about public service and trying to make the world a better place.”

 Kaiser ran for the first time when she was 34, a young age by political standards. She is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and the chair of the Education Committee in Maryland’s House of Delegates. She is now entering her tenth year of office.

 “I would prefer [for] there to be more [women],” said Kaiser. “[But as one of my colleagues put it,] you cannot be what you cannot see.”

 Kaiser believes that the key to getting women involved in politics is providing mentors, so women believe they can achieve that level of leadership.

 A documentary called “Miss Representation,” directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was released in 2011 about this very concept – that the way girls are portrayed in the media affects their perceptions of themselves and their interest in being leaders.

 “To see [female] leadership in reality and on the screen in television is huge for women,” said Marie Wilson, the founding president of the White House Project, in the documentary.

 Encouragement from role models is significant because, as it turns out, when women actually run, they succeed just as often as men.

 “The important message to get out is that women, relative to the numbers that they run and relative to the number of open seats, do just as well as men,” said Kaiser. “The problem is that not enough women try.”

 At WJ, though, the inequities in the SGA may stem from a different issue.

 “Boys write funnier speeches and they get more votes,” said senior Ben Esenstad.

 Since the SGA positions are valued mostly for their humor in pep rallies and the homecoming video, girls may choose not to run because they think they are too serious or too intelligent to get elected.

 “The jokes made by male SGA candidates that people find so funny wouldn’t be socially acceptable coming from a girl candidate,” said Sasha Gzirian, founder of WJ’s Gender Equity Club.

 This is a difficult cycle to break at WJ, given that there are few role models to get inspiration from when it comes to SGA positions. However, there is support arising from many different areas of the school.

 “Women in leadership positions think a lot more like I do than men do, so I like women leaders,” said history teacher Nathan Schwartz. “I’m all for it.”

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