The Government’s Lack of Ladies in Leadership
The United States Office of the President is the highest leadership position in the nation. So, why have there been no women elected to this prestigious and powerful role? The answers may be very simple or extremely complex, but do they represent valid reasons? Is the U.S. slowing changing its attitude toward women in leadership? What are some of the reasons these attitudes continue to persist?
One of the reasons for women’s lack of presence in politics is the perception that women are physically weaker than men. This is certainly true in some cases, but what if girls were given the same chances as boys to play sports when they were younger? This recent trend is only producing results now, as the current twenty-something women are now competing for jobs along with the boys they played with in sports activities. These young women were given the opportunity to play soccer, baseball, basketball, and so forth, with boys the same age. Boys are often more aggressive than girls, and in order to compete, girls have to work harder and become stronger. Competition among girls and boys plays out quite differently.
According to a study done among four year olds, the boys competed by straight-forward methods, such as asking for the item in competition, chasing another peer for the item, and/or trying to grab the item directly from the peer who had it; but, girls in the study were more likely to exclude the item-holder from playing with them, talk about the item-holder, and/or conceal themselves from the item holder (Yong, NewScientist.com). Although this is just one example of competition among preschoolers, it is clear girls and boys compete in differing ways. But what about competition in organized sports events?
Girls and boys have the potential to be equally athletic, given that their muscle development is roughly the same, at least until puberty; then, the boys will become more muscular and stronger, according to a study released by Indiana University researchers, according to an article on HuffingPost.com. Nevertheless, what if girls were given the opportunity to compete against boys and further, given the same training? And what if girls were given the same opportunities as boys to become leaders of teams, especially teams that are comprised of both sexes? Perhaps if girls were raised to lead teams of their peers in competitive settings in the classroom, they would be less likely to fear competition in the marketplace when they are grown.
It is this area of competition that girls do not appear to be equally accepted in. They may have been leaders of classroom competitions, science fairs, spelling bees and the like. Girls may have been class president and even president of various clubs. Girls may have been the editor of the school newspaper, newsletter, or school yearbook. But when young women graduate from college, are they given the same leadership opportunities as their male counterparts? The data and statistics would strongly resonate with a “no.”
According to Steven Hill, writing in The Nation Daily, “women still hold less than twenty percent of congressional seats, despite composing a majority of the U.S. population.” The United States census lists the female population at 50.8%, holding steady at this rate since 2010; however, in the world, females made up 49.6% of the population in 2016, but only hold 23% of government seats (data.worldbank.org). One might expect this percentage to be lower in third world countries where it is difficult for women to work outside the home, but in developed countries such as the United States, and Western Europe, the numbers are not proportionally representative of the population being served. Why are so few women in leadership positions in business, and specifically, in politics?
In business, the statistics for women in CEO positions is just 6.4%, which translates to merely thirty-two women as heads of Fortune-500 companies, according to Jena McGregor, writing in The Washington Post. These women lead companies such as General Motors, Progressive Insurance, and Hershey Corporation, writes McGregor. In the global marketplace, “women hold an average of just twenty-one percent of senior management roles and only nine percent of CEO jobs,” according to a study done by Grant Thorton, cited by FKG, and reported by Josie Cox in Independent. Women in government positions globally hold only fifteen of the top leadership positions in United Nations member states, and although female leadership has been present in a few countries for greater than twenty years, the vast majority of nations have had no female leadership, according to Geiger and Kent of the Pew Research Center.
The data and statistics presents the numbers on the absence of female leadership, both in the United States and globally, but the numbers do not explain why this is so. Are females less trustworthy than men? Have females lacked the ambition to seek these positions of authority? Are women less likely to desire top leadership positions? Or is there a cultural stigma attached to women in leadership that causes many women not to pursue these opportunities?
A cultural stigma could arise from the way a girl is raised in the home. Perhaps she has been taught to be subservient to the men in her family. Perhaps she has been told that women who are leaders in business and government are bossy, arrogant, and pushy, and no man wants a woman like that for a wife. Maybe she has seen too many news reports where women are featured in a less-than-flattering way. And maybe, just maybe, she has been taught that women should submit to their husbands and not ask questions or have authority over men.
This last statement is found in the Bible, with the authority of God Almighty and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (NIV). Some Biblical scholars have written in commentaries that Paul was given correction to a concept that existed in the church at that time in history and he did not mean for it to be universally applied for all time and ages; yet other commentators have interpreted this passage to be relevant for all time (NIV First-Century Study Bible). As there were known female leaders of some sort in the church during Paul’s time on earth, it is highly possible that he was correcting some error on the part of the believers at the church in Ephesus, where Timothy was the pastor. Whatever view one may take of this verse, God’s intention for men and women to be equal is clear.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, “God created mankind in his own image . . . male and female he created them . . . [to] rule . . . over every living creature that moves on the ground” (27–8). God gave the man and woman a commission to take care of everything together, not have one of them rule over the other. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, italics mine). Paul wrote to the Ephesians that submission is to be mutual, not one to have more authority over the other. The rules of hermeneutics state that the Bible is to be interpreted incorporating, basically, these three questions: what is the literal meaning of a passage, what did it mean for those to whom it was originally written, and what does it mean to us now? According to Stephan Grunlan, “the position of biblical authority and cultural relativity leads to a hermeneutic that understands all of Scripture culturally and all of Scripture literally” (60). The Bible is not to be taken out of context to support one’s own view, but read with the intention of discerning what it meant for the original recipients and what it continues to mean for those of us living now.
With these points in mind, it is helpful to remember that women had little or no say in the world of the New Testament. Jesus elevated women to a prominent place by speaking with them (John 4), allowing them to be first to see the empty tomb (Luke 24), and by giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to both men and women (Acts 2). Women were put in prison for their belief in Jesus (Acts 8), they were baptized as the men were (Acts 8), and they held positions of prominence in their day (Acts 17). And lastly, Paul recognized that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Both male and female are to fulfill their God-given purposes in life. If that calling includes being involved in politics or business, being a leader or a follower, it is to be done with excellence, keeping in mind that “politics, then, requires organization” and “organizations, simply put, are tools in the hands of their creators and are created for collective goals” (Cobb 207). Many women are great organizers, able to juggle the demands of the home, the family, their jobs, and serve in various capacities in the church and in the community. And if that service requires a career in politics, women should not be afraid to step out and fulfill that role, knowing that this is the purpose that God has for them.
Cobb, Stephen. “Politics.” Christian Perspectives on Sociology, edited by Stephen A. Grunlan and Milton Reimer. 1982. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001, pp. 204–225.
Cox, Josie. “International Women’s Day 2017: Number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies falls by more than 12%.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/international-womens-day-2017-female-ceo-fortune-500-companies-fall-2016-more-12-per-cent-executives-a7617771.html. 8 March 2017. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
Geiger, Abigail and Lauren Kent. “Number of women leaders around the world has grown, but they’re still a small group.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/08/women-leaders-around-the-world/. 8 March 2017. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
Grunlan, Stephen. “Biblical Authority and Cultural Relativity.” Grunlan and Reimer, pp. 47–65.
Hill, Stephan. “Why Does the U.S. Still Have So Few Women in Office?” https://www.thenation.com/article/why-does-us-still-have-so-few-women-office/ . 7 March 2014. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
McGregor, Jena. “The number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 is at an all-time high — of 32.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/06/07/the-number-of-women-ceos-in-the-fortune-500-is-at-an-all-time-high-of-32/?utm_term=.4b824ded7d13. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
Stager, Joel. “Who says girls can’t compete athletically with boys?” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/iu-wsg052512.php. 31 May 2012. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
Yong, Ed. “Girls are as competitive as boys — just more subtle.” New Scientist.com. 25 June 2008. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.01.027. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
“Girls Are As Athletic As Boys, Study Says.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/girls-are-as-athletic-as-boys_n_1559917.html, 7 June 2012. Web accessed 14 October 2017.
The Bible. New International Version Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985.
The World Bank Group. Data.worldbank.org. Web accessed 14 October 2017.