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Working Towards Gender Equity: The Issue Of Sexism Among Officeholders Is Still A Problem

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By Amelia Schuler

Takoma Park, Md.– The United States is one of the more progressive nations on the topic of gender equality, but there is still room to grow.

Although there have been many steps in the direction of gender equity, such as when the Nineteenth Amendment and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were passed, sexism, especially in government, is a continuing issue.

There have been major improvements in the number of female office holders. Nevertheless, one of the most prominent forms of gender inequality is in the difference of treatment between female and male officeholders.

In an interview with Mayor Kate Stewart of Takoma Park, a small Maryland city outside of Washington D.C.,  she discussed times where she felt like people held her at a lower standard in relation to her male colleagues.

“There were instances where reporters would say things like ‘the Mayor is very emotional,’ yet I had stated the same facts as my colleagues… never were my male colleagues called emotional,” she says.

This is a problem seen throughout the United States, where women are not receiving the same amount of respect as their male coworkers. 

An article from the New York Times titled, “‘Worthless.’ ‘Gutless.’ Online Attacks Rise When the Mayor Is a Woman,” discusses the disproportionate amount of criticism female mayors face. 

The Article stated that “researchers concluded that female mayors were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to experience psychological abuse and almost three times as likely to experience physical violence.”

Mayor Kate Stewart stated that she has had similar instances in her political career, citing a time before she was Mayor, where she ran for City Council. 

An acquaintance of hers put out an email stating that the “ward should not take the diversity hit for the rest of the city and elect a woman who is unqualified.”

The email made it appear as though her only qualification was that she was a “soccer mom” and that she was not doing enough to run for City Council. 

Stewart says that the email was incorrect about her being unqualified as she was a partner in her own firm and had experience running her own campaigns. 

While Stewart believes the email inadvertently helped her get elected to the City Council by bringing the election more attention, it still shows that there are some deep seated biases among many people.

In order to work against these beliefs, people need to be shown that women can be as good as men. 

One of the most influential ways to enact change is by example, says Mayor Stewart. 

Stewart tells a story about a woman who approached her, telling her that her son had only ever known her as mayor and was surprised that men could be mayors too. 

In this case, maybe more policy is not the panacea to gender equity, instead it must work in tandem with real life role models in order to affect change.

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