Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Gender stereotyping keeps women from breaking the glass ceiling.
This piece was originally published in The Hill.
There are more women in politics now than ever, a resurgence of women’s rights activism and the possibility of another woman as the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, it could still take 88 years to reach gender parity in Congress and 208 years to reach gender equality writ large in the United States. So what is holding us back?
You’ve surely heard hyperbolic claims like if women were running the world, we would all live in harmony. Even President Carter holds this line of thinking. He said, "there's no doubt in my mind that a woman is more inclined to peace than a man is, so I think we can move towards peace if women get more and more positions in parliament and more and more positions as president."
I advocate for more women to obtain positions of power and know that the world would be a better place for it. But the reason why I, and other gender equality professionals, know this to be true, is not because of any supposedly feminine qualities like peacefulness. In fact, gender stereotypes risk the upward trend of women’s political power and harm the efforts of gender equality professionals. Women deserve to have political power because we exist, and we have the right to control the destiny of our world just as much as men do.
That gender stereotypes still persist in our society is understandable, though, as everything from the toys we buy our kids to the ads on TV reinforce gender norms. These stereotypes are then perpetuated, performed and also policed. Both women and men can be harmed by these generalizations — and gender nonconforming people experience negative repercussions to a greater degree.