By Cynthia Richie Terrell on February 03, 2017
Groundhog Day. We all know the movie in which Bill Murray is destined to repeat the same year, year after year until he "begins to re-examine his life and priorities." This 'holiday' lesson seems especially relevant this year as those of us who care about women's representation are caught up in defending our rights, and the rights of others - but I call on all of us to think about medium and longer term strategies that always will seem less urgent but are essential.
The Pew Research Center released a fascinating report about a 2015 study that tracks attitudes about gender equality across countries. Ninety one percent of Americans think that women's equality is 'very important' - a full 26% above the median. Yet the United States ranks in 100th place for women's representation. How can this be? The answer lies in the lesson Bill Murray learned in Ground Hog Day. If we want different outcomes - and we now have the data that shows that 9 in 10 Americans want women's equality - we need to make different choices and pursue new strategies to elect women and get them into positions of leadership and power.
According to a new study from the World Economic Forum, it will take 170 years until full gender equality is achieved. The review was based on education, health, political empowerment and economic participation. The latter two factors are the areas in which women fare the worst, the study found. “An average gap of 31.7 percent remains to be closed worldwide across the four Index dimensions in order to achieve universal gender parity,” according to the report. Notably, some regions of the world are closer to full gender parity than others.
Quotas and "multi-seat districts" are elements of those successes. Those concepts are too complex for explanation here; still, our woeful record begs review of our processes including the burdensome Electoral College established in 1787 as part of the Constitution.
That said, the prime impediment to the election of women may not be discrimination by men, as some would say, or our system, but the fact that women do not get involved in the same numbers.
P.S. My grandmother was a charter member of the National Day of Prayer - and the Breakfast - she worked with women across political and international boundaries to build a better world. She and other women leaders are featured on this UN cookbook from the 1950s.