Editorial: A caring maternal nature

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Recently, we commented on the number of women who were entering the political arena and suggested that “perhaps the time has come for that breath of fresh air that women can bring to our political discourse and governance.” We took the optimistic view that “Venus is ascendant” and surmised that she ought to be.
There have been interesting responses to our sentiments on the rise of women in politics, and it has generated some healthy (and needed) debate. There are those, locked in time, who still believe that politics is not a place for women because of the combative nature of the sport and their delicate maternal nature. Then there are those who are kicking down doors to ensure that the caring maternal nature of women is the foundation upon which we rely for leadership.
Unfortunately, the barriers to a greater representation of women in politics are deep-rooted and will take an enormous task to dislodge. Few of these barriers are easily argued, otherwise, they would have been dispensed of a long time ago. Rather, the issues are far more
complex and run the gamut from social to cultural to historical – and many in between.
In one of the more interesting studies on the issue came from American University professor of government Jennifer Lawless and Loyola Marymount University political science professor Richard Fox in a 2012 report. Although they assumed a U.S. perspective, the professors studied “potential candidates” of both genders, and the study’s observations cross borders. As background, it focused on professionals and activists who stereotypically might seek political office and tried to determine what exactly may be the barrier to them taking up the challenge.  
The results, boiled down to seven main categories, are telling in a very blunt way – some to the cringe level.
The first: “Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates.” This one is fairly obvious because there is a known gender bias in the world, and politics and leadership has typically been a male-dominated game.
The second reason is closely tied to the issue of gender bias and relates to the treatment of women who decide to challenge men for their leadership roles. The authors made specific mention of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin as examples of how women are treated as candidates in the electoral arena. Basically, other women saw how they were treated and decided that it was not worth it. Easy to see but still very sad to acknowledge, as it says so much about society.
The third reason is the most cringe-worthy reason. The authors concluded that self-confidence was an issue, in that women are “much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.” This one plays out on so many levels that it is difficult to even comment. It speaks to the societal programming of our cultures and the way we fail to instill confidence in women as they grow up.
In another related point, the authors stated that, “female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident and more risk-averse than their male counterparts.” This is hardly news and actually good reasons why women would make great leaders. They are not into the macho competitiveness that we see rampant in the political world, and they do not take risks as easily as men. That latter point is probably because their maternal instincts are always on and they look for long-term growth rather than gambling for quick gains. We immediately think of less conflict and wars.
That authors state that, “women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns.” Well, we can only add, thank goodness for that.  Hopefully, if more women were to campaign and win, we would have less negativity in the campaign process, and we will see a return to civility and common decency. What a refreshing turn that would be.
For the second to last reasons, the authors return to the way society programmes us to look at women’s talents and roles. They discovered that, “women are less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office — from anyone.” Just think about that for a moment. People look around a room for potential candidates and eliminate some of the most smart, caring and able people because they are programmed to look for men. Then, they force the “smart, caring and able” labels on the men as they try to convince you to vote for them.
The last reason is somewhat of a stereotypical one but factual nonetheless: “Women are still responsible for the majority of childcare and household tasks.”  As 1950s as that sounds, women still bear that responsibility, and maybe more so now than in the 50s because there are so many single mothers that play the role of both parents.
So there you have it. Some of the more prevalent reasons why women shy away from jobs that they will probably be good at. Too bad, because we know that we would certainly appreciate a bit more of the caring maternal nature of women in our daily political diet rather than the testosterone fest that we are force-fed daily.

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