By Gloria Thomas*
Women will not have achieved political equality until critical societal changes have taken place. First, women’s successes in being elected and appointed to political positions, corporate and non-profit executive leadership roles, as well as significant public and private boards must no longer be an anomaly to demonstrate equality has been accomplished. When we reach this point, there will no longer be a need for organizations like The White House Project to inspire women to run for public office. Nor will there be a need for other leadership programs designed to provide women with the skills and networks necessary to pursue various executive level positions and to provide the staying power to succeed once they are in these roles.
Second, women will not have achieved political equality until men are no longer threatened by women’s achievements and the power that women assume along with their political and leadership roles. In conjunction with women’s advancements into these roles, comes the need for assuaging the egos of men who previously held the positions. This must be done in order to assure men that women can indeed be their political and intellectual equals as conduits of power and thought. Furthermore, men must continue to be educated and persuaded of the broad societal benefits of having women at the helm in spite of the personal losses of power and influence men undergo when they compete with and lose to the feminine gender.
Third, men and women who adhere to traditional notions of gender roles and places in society will need to be brought on board to accept and celebrate women’s ways of leading (generally speaking) through collaboration, compassion, and commitment.
We can achieve such equality for women through several avenues. We must be vigilant in documenting our successes thus far and the challenges that lie ahead of us. Continuously advocating for gender-based equality in all facets of society, especially within education, labor, and political sectors, will also help us to pursue this goal. Finally, providing leadership development and networking opportunities for women will build the necessary skills, knowledge and the desire to achieve political equality and will thus help them in their pursuit of leadership roles.
*Gloria D. Thomas, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan.
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