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Washington and corporate America have not caught up to the reality of more women in the political arena, why? It seems surprisingly obvious; the voices of women are so drastically underrepresented at the highest levels where public policy and corporate decisions are being made. In 2014, we women need to do something about it.
Many women soften their voices and limit their range of influence. Even gifted, visible women leaders often confine their views on gender bias to safe audiences. It is 2014 ladies, it is time to change the culture, wade into the mainstream and articulate why gender equity is a winner for everyone. Engaging men in the effort to recognize and advance talented women speeds progress. The participation of women changes the agenda, procedures, content and outcome of every decision that is made.
The lack of diversity within the Republican Party, specifically in terms of gender, has been a widespread topic of discussion recently. One major reason for this is the gender gap. In the 2012 Presidential Election, women voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney at a 55% to 44% clip, results fairly similar to the 2008 election. With women comprising a majority of registered voters, this is a particularly concerning problem for the GOP.
The history of discrimination and disenfranchisement of women is certainly well documented in any American history course. However, it seems quite alarming that a party oftentimes thought of as an organization of old white men did not do more to embrace women’s leadership prior to the 2012 election. In fact, many people can recall political gaffes by Republican candidates regarding forcing medical procedures on women or antiquated thoughts about sexual assault that did widespread damage and likely elevated Democrats to wins in Indiana and Missouri Senate elections.
College women traditionally outperform their male counterparts in academic success at colleges and universities throughout the country. Women frequently develop higher level leadership traits at earlier ages than men. Women are making significant strides in a number of fields. Even women with children—traditionally thought of as sacrificing their chances of career advancement—are taking the business world by storm, as best exemplified by Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer. With all of this in mind, why is the Republican Party failing to recognize the natural talents of women within their ranks? After all, this is the party that led the fight for women’s suffrage.
Perhaps the message has finally been received. Recently, Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Republican Conference, was selected to deliver the party’s State of the Union response. Last month, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced this year’s GOP Rising Stars—all women. This included people such as Alex Smith, a Seton Hall law student who became the first woman to serve as national chair of the College Republicans. Also included was Chelsi Henry, a conservative activist who grew up on welfare, and Kimberly Yee, an Arizona state senator.
Indeed, it appears that a number of women stand to exert tremendous influence on the Republican Party. Consider the 2014 elections. There are candidates such as Erika Harold, an attorney and former Miss America seeking election to Congress in Illinois. Elise Stefanik, a 29-year old business woman, aims to defeat Representative Bill Owens in New York. Then there is Mia Love, who is favored to easily win the Utah House seat being vacating by Representative Jim Matheson. In total, the National Federation of Republican Women boasts 53 candidates for Congress in 2014 including several strong incumbents.
Hopefully the Republican Party has finally seen the light and realized the untapped potential of leadership within their ranks. Republican women are ready and willing to exert their influence on the party. It is time for the traditional party leadership to allow their voices to be heard. This will help immensely in closing the aforementioned gender gap and enable the GOP to communicate more effectively with voters while becoming a more representative vision of the U.S. population.