The importance of women’s representation in politics
We kicked off our global conversation on women in politics with a special video message from Representative Judy Chu from California’s 27th Congressional District. She highlights that we currently have 130 elected women in congress, the highest number in U.S. history to date. Representative Chu remarks, “more women with seats at the table means more women having a say in the policies that affect our lives.” Despite this progress, she emphasizes that there’s still work to be done which is why events and conversations such as this are so important.
Sarah Jacobs, a Democratic Candidate for California’s 53rd Congressional District, shared challenges she has faced as a congressional candidate, one of which is the issue of ageism. She also points out that rejection of female candidates is often a result of internalized ideas about what leaders ought to look like. However, the growing number of women in politics over the past two years according to Jacobs has, “changed implicit perception of what leadership can and should look like.”
Lindsey Nitta, Executive Director of California Women Lead, discussed California’s record number of women, like Jacobs, running for office at all levels of government. She believes that these high numbers represent a tipping point for female representation in politics. Nitta stresses that it is up to us to utilize this momentum to build infrastructure around the strong women leading the way and empower the next generation.
We learned that the disproportionate challenges faced by women in politics are not unique to the United States. Xenia Constantinou from Cyprus and Valentina Minic from Montenegro, shared their experiences as IVLP Alumni and Members of Parliament in their respective countries. Constantinou’s research finds that it will take another 100 years to reach critical mass, which is at least 33% representation in all decision-making bodies. She urges those working towards parity to keep moving forward as fast as possible because “Nobody can afford to wait another 100 years.” Minic stresses that women’s representation is not just a matter of women’s rights, but of human rights. On gender balance in leadership, Angelic Del Castilho, IVLP Alumna and Senior Policy Advisor at the Suriname Ministry of Foreign Affairs, affirms, “our strength is realizing that we can endure the most difficult situations and come up with the most innovative solutions.”
Our moderator Carl Luna, Director of the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement at the University of San Diego, facilitated the timely discussion as this year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in America and the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women’s rights.
We are grateful to Carl, our esteemed group of panelists, and of course Sempra Energy for sponsoring our Global Leaders Online Forum series.
Watch the full presentation HERE.