Women in Positions of Power: A Battle Against Double Standards
More women than ever are breaking past the glass ceiling in politics. Yet, they are still confronting misogynistic expectations of what a woman can or should be.
Women have come a long way since the early 1900s. Just this year, a record number of women were elected into Congress, and more women than ever before have launched their presidential bids, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
As of 2019 from the 535 members in the United States Congress, 127 are women, and 47 out of these women are women of color.
Although men continue to be the majority in positions of power, these victories demonstrate that the landscape of politics is slowly changing, and women are becoming more comfortable in challenging the system.
According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, seven out of 10 women - and 5 out of 10 men - agree that there is an under-representation of women in political offices and in top executive business positions. Many believe that structural barriers and uneven expectations are holding women back from obtaining these positions.
The barriers to obtaining leadership positions and excelling in them are felt by women around the country, as well as at the local level here in Philadelphia.
“I think for women the challenge and the expectations are much higher, so you have to be as prepared if not better prepared, “ said City Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez during a recent visit to AL DÍA. “It’s expected from women to have mass appeal, which means that you have to be able to walk into all the different smokey rooms without people feeling offended or intimidated,” she added.
Quiñones-Sánchez mentioned Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an example of one political figure on the national stage who has often been the target of gendered criticism since her swift ascension to political prominence in the past year, when she became the youngest woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Double standards are Paul Ryan being elected at 28 and immediately being given the benefit of his ill-considered policies considered genius; and me winning a primary at 28 to immediately be treated with suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud. https://t.co/KipcyHaaAb
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 10, 2018
“Double standards are Paul Ryan being elected at 28 and immediately being given the benefit of his ill-considered policies considered genius; and me winning a primary at 28 to immediately be treated with suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud, “Ocasio-Cortez tweeted last December. The representative from New York also received criticism for not smiling during Trump’s State of The Union Address.
“AOC had a rare bad night, looking not spirited, warm and original as usual but sullen, teenaged and at a loss,” tweeted Peggy Noonan, a conservative columnist, and former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.
“Why should I be ‘spirited and warm’ for this embarrassment of a #SOTU? Tonight was an unsettling night for our country,” Ocasio-Cortez replied to Noonan.
The exchange highlighted the ways in which women, particularly in politics, often have to deal with these double standards of maintaining certain appearances, even while having to constantly prove their intelligence and competency.
This kind of criticism of women in leadership positions “involves a lot of machismo, “ said Quiñones-Sanchez, though she noted that this “machismo” isn’t just coming from men.
Quiñones-Sanchez says women have to also challenge themselves to support other women.
“What I’ve seen is a society of women that we need to be better allies to each other, ” said Quiñones-Sánchez, adding that “women will write more checks to men than they do to women politically, and that is a problem.”
Working together and supporting women leaders can bring great change and benefit communities, said Quiñones-Sanchez.
“Sometimes people can be very tunnel vision, I think women just look at the bigger picture all the time,” she concluded.