By

Stephanie March

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With only two females out of twenty-one potential candidates in the 2016 Presidential race, it’s safe to say politics is still a male dominated arena. Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina certainly have their work cut out for them while the media is busy discussing their outfits instead of their ideals.

All it takes is one glance at the headlines to know that many of the issues these candidates will face once elected involve women. Pending legislation regarding everything from Planned Parenthood to domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses rests in the hands of the next, mostly male, administration, as women make up only 17% of Congress.

 

On reproductive rights Hillary Clinton stated “Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice – not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will”. This will would become stronger with additional female votes backing this and other issues.

 

Not to say that men don’t care about women’s issues or have valuable opinions, but their voices shouldn’t be the loudest ones in the room. More reform in areas that impact women the most would occur more rapidly with a stronger female influence in politics. Women need this reform in areas like domestic violence and sexual assaults in college desperately as both are occurring at epidemic rates.

 

According to this article by the Huffington Post, “The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war”. This shocking statistic is merely the tip of the iceberg and with October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month the need for awareness and education of future female leaders could not be more prevalent.

 

Regarding sexual assaults on college campuses, a recent study commissioned by the Association of American Universities reported in an article by The New York Times found that a whopping 27.2 percent of female college seniors experienced unwanted sexual contact during their college careers. This translates to one in four college women that experience some form of sexual assault on campus.

 

This is why the education, encouragement, and mentoring of young girls and women interested in politics is so crucial. They need to know they are every bit as capable as their male peers both inside and outside the classroom. The film “Miss Representation” brings to light that an equal amount of boys and girls mention wanting to one day be President at the age of seven. However, by age fifteen the number of girls that still express their desire to be President plummets.

 

Programs like Running Start aim to reverse that trend by mentoring young women interested in public service and political careers. Board member and adjunct Professor at George Washington University Nancy Bocskor explains her motivation to get involved in public service came from her parents, whom she says in an interview for Running Start “Told me there was a great world beyond my backyard- and one where women could achieve great things”. When this encouragement doesn’t come from a parent we need mentors and educators to step up to the plate.

 

On leadership, Carly Fiorina stated “If someone believes they are limited by their gender, race or background, they will become more limited”. Females need to know what the characteristics of a good leader are, like confidence and intuition, and that they have the capability of developing every trait without being considered “rude” or “unfeminine”.

Young women need to be taught effective time management skills, like the importance of saying no and delegating responsibilities. They need to be encouraged to participate in moot court activities as often as they are currently taught gymnastics and sewing. They need to be taught finance and history from a young age and encouraged to excel in those subjects every bit as much as their male counterparts.

 

Currently women hold 19.3% of elected office in the House and 20% in the Senate. In the UK there are currently 191 female Members of Parliament out of 650 total members. These numbers are abysmal when you consider that women make up half of the population. We need their voices now and in the future to grow stronger and louder on the topics that affect all women across the nation.

 

According to Running Start, “America is far below most countries in the world in terms of women’s political representation, coming in 83rd out of 189 nations around the world with elected governments”. In comparison, there are currently 22 other nations with female leaders. Clearly we are behind in the global equality movement.

 

I like to think having a female President isn’t impossible in 2016 and that it’s even more possible in the future. In order to accomplish that we have to, according to Running Start, “start ‘em young”. As Clinton noted “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”. It’s time we step up and encourage the younger generations to continue pursuing progress. This nation, and every nation, needs our voices to be heard and represented.

 

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Stephanie March is a writer, domestic violence survivor, and advocate. You can find her on Twitter or read more at her blog.