What Will It Take To Make A Woman President?

Posted on LinkedIn Influencers on November 20, 2013

In 2008, amid the historic election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, Marianne Schnall’s eight year old daughter asked her mom a question: “Why haven’t we ever had a woman president?” It’s a fair question. Countries all over the world have or have had female leaders, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iceland, Ukraine, Norway, Liberia, Thailand, Argentina, Peru, and Denmark, and therefore it makes sense that a little girl in the United States would want to know why her country has never elected a woman for its leader. This question prompted Schnall to take a good look at the issue, and to delve deep into the myriad of reasons why a woman has never been the President of the United States. Her research has produced a book, titled What Will It Take To Make A Woman President?, and it was released earlier this week on November 5th, a timely date given that it coincided with a day of elections for many Americans.

An accomplished writer and interviewer, Schnall is no stranger to the challenges facing women today, as she is the founder and Executive Director of Feminist.com, one of the web’s leading sites for women. Acting as a resource guide and informational tool to help promote awareness, educate, and advocate for women worldwide, Feminist.com began in 1995, and has since grown to be one of the premiere resource guides on women’s issues online. Additionally, Schnall has written extensively for O, The Oprah Magazine, CNN, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, In Style, and the Women’s Media Center, as well as being a featured blogger for the Huffington Post. In 2010, Marianne compiled her “Inspiring Conversations” column into her first book, Daring to be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness, and Finding Your Own Voice.

This time around, Schnall has gathered an impressive list of interviewees for her exploration of women in leadership, including Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maya Angelou, Nancy Pelosi, Pat Mitchell, and Sheryl Sandberg. In looking at previews posted online, it is clear that all of these women have very interesting and pointed opinions on why there aren’t more women in leadership positions across all sectors of life, and in sharing their opinions, they also share their optimism for the future. As Sandberg states, “One day there won’t be female leaders. There will just be leaders. I personally think it’s a numbers game. I basically think the system is broken and there are all kinds of institutional barriers, but if we can get enough women into jobs like yours and jobs like mine, that changes.” I couldn’t agree more that change is possible, and it is my hope that when women read this book, they will see more clearly and understand the barriers in their path to leadership, and find the inspiration to overcome them.

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore

Senate Votes No to Equal Pay for Women – Say WHAT????

The U.S Senate voted last week on the Paycheck Fairness Act, an act that would have helped bring an end to pay discrimination. Unbelievably the act was rejected by the Senate with a vote of 52 yes to 47 no. (69 yes votes were needed to pass the act) If you’re interested in seeing how your senator voted click here. I am Canadian and not a US citizen, which means I cannot vote, so this is not a political issue for me, it is a fairness issue.  t That said not a single Republican voted yes.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is aimed to end pay discrimination by closing a set of loopholes in current labor laws that make it near impossible to enforce fair pay laws. It would ban employer retaliation against workers who seek to expose wage discrimination, make it easier for workers to join together in class action suits to fight it and give victims of pay discrimination full compensation and back pay. Ultraviolet, an incredible organization that our foundation supports, put together a fact sheet on wage statistics. On average, over the course of a woman’s career women are loosing $431,000 due to wage discrimination. This is one of the main reasons we see so many senior women living in poverty today!  To see the whole fact sheet click to Ultraviolet.

If you’re as outraged as I am, its time to take action! Know that issues and know how politicians in your area are voting. In addition Momsrising, a network of people with the goal to make America a more family-friendly place, is taking a strong stand. “Instead of giving up, we’re doubling down on our Campaign for Equal Pay.”  Please consider supporting them by donating $23 (why only $23? On average, women make 23 cents less to a man’s dollar). CLICK HERE to donate!

Embrace the facts, share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and take a stand against pay discrimination!

The White House Forum on Women and the Economy

Last Friday, President Obama hosted a White House Forum on Women and the Economy. The forum addressed the important role that women play in the economy.  There are pages of facts in our resources section organized by category if you want to take a look.

As part this forum the White House Council on Women and Girls released a new report entitled, “Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, The Key to an Economy Built to Last.” This report examines the Administrations persistence to ensure women have support through all stages of life. The Executive Summary itself is bold, compelling, and empirically sound!  Could this serve as a wake call to as the economic power and possibility of women? He certainly has the women’s vote in this country and this is why.

The report states, “Today, more than ever before, women are playing a central role in the American economy. Women now make up nearly 50% of our workforce, are a growing number of breadwinners in their families, and are the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools. American women own 30% of small businesses, which generate $1.2 trillion a year in sales. Since 1962, women’s participation in the labor market has risen by 20 percentage points while the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has more than quadrupled. And according to a report by McKinsey, if the United States raised female labor participation rates to the average participation rate of the top 10 states, our economy would add 5.1 million women workers, the equivalent of a 3-4% increase in GDP.”

With women owning 30% of small businesses, controlling 80% of consumer discretionary spending, and accounting for 67% of college graduates (70% of the 2012 valedictorians) it is right for the administration to have this focus.  More surprising is how this did not come to be prior to 2009. The shocking contrast is between these measurements of presence and impact ( current and potential)  and the lack of representation in leadership positions in this country across all sectors.

As a father of two young girls President Obama said, “Every decision I make is all about making sure [my daughters] and all our daughter and all our sons grow up in a country that gives them the chance to be anything they set their minds to; a country where more doors are open to them than were ever open to us.” As the mother of a son and daughter, I could not agree more.

Though I do have some issues with our President on the economic front, his stand for women and girls is notable.

You can see President Obama’s full address here.  Worth a watch!!!!