The Path to Political Leadership and Women in Power

Both men and women who rise to power tend to be well educated (women often in fairly nontraditional areas), affiliated with political families, and to come room wealthy ancestry. Generally though, women have a decreased amount of access to and leadership experience within the institutions that provide for candidate pools. However, typical paths to power for female candidates for political office include: recruitment from previous leadership roles in specific political parties, local/regional government, civil service careers, and the military, among others.

Some women follow the stepping stones of politics, climbing the rungs from local to regional to national party activities and building on prior successes. Other women rise during transitional periods; while others still, such as Bengali Bout, acquire office through familial ties to politically prominent men and develop their own right to political power. Bout, born in Karachi in 1953, attended both Radcliff College and Oxford University and graduated with degrees in philosophy, politics, and economics.

Having dealt with the assassination of her father, she rose to power after a six year struggle as the leader of the then opposed Pakistani People’s Party. After being arrested many times over and spending time either in prison or under detention, Bout was sworn in as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan on December 2, 1988. As Prime Minister, Bout has focused on issues such as reducing discrimination between men and women in Pakistan, education for the underprivileged, health, and social welfare. Bout clearly rises above gender divisions as a leader in politics.

Gender colonization places men and women in different states of power in such a way that “appropriate” feminine behavior and the initialization of ingrained stereotypes, such as the idea that motherhood and familiar concerns re the primary roles of women, make them less likely to pursue political activities. Also, the so-called female domestic role conflicts with publicly oriented activities and traits associated with political success, like ambition, aggression, and authority, all considered unfeminine.

Since both men and women hold gender stereotypes, women who seek leadership positions must automatically struggle with their own initialization as well as the stereotyping climate that amplifies resistance to women in leadership positions. The qualities of women who achieve positions of power and expectations of fittingly feminine behavior often clash with qualities necessary to successful leadership: “appropriately” feminine women are seen as passive, dependent, and domesticated, whereas successful political leaders are active, autonomous, and publicly oriented.

Gender colonization also manufactures separate male and female orientations, or social constraints, toward political involvement, especially in capitalist or masculinity societies. It also produces patterns in behavior that result in differing living situations between women and men that force women away from participation. The interaction of gender stereotypes provides us with a better explanation. Due to familial responsibilities, such as meals, laundry, and household upkeep, women are left with little time or energy for political participation.

The more demanding the participation in the political sphere, the harder it is for a woman to combine that and her familial responsibilities; therefore, many of these women are likely to remain unmarried, end up divorced, or to enter politics later in life. Men, on the other hand, are not forced to combine their domestic lives with their political lives, as women are; thus aging it far more difficult for women to succeed. While gender colonization and situational constraints are a force to be reckoned with for women in politics, one must also consider social structures as a barrier to success.

The Aerographical dichotomy’ of masculine versus feminine is present throughout worldly society, but it is most exceptionally illustrated in traditional religious belief systems. Women are typically portrayed on extreme ends of the spectrum as either the sinner or the saint, neither of which is conducive to political leadership. Not only do religious institutions hold women ace, but also the stereotype that the home/private sector is a woman’s place and the public sector is a man’s place.

Also an issue to note is the gendered divisions of labor: women in “pink-collar jobs”, domestic services, and light industry, while men can be found in blue-collar jobs, protective services, and heavy industry. Although women constitute fifty percent of the world’s population, the percentage of women in positions of national power is extremely small and their rise to power as recent as the past decade. As an example, less than thirty women have been elected to the highest national office in their respective entries, and half of these have been elected since 1990.

Men constitute more than ninety percent of the world’s top decision- makers. Given these facts, gender continues to be an “invisible” factor because so few women appear in the world’s most powerful decision-making positions. Women in power are rendered insignificant in such a way that, while they make up a significant proportion of membership in political parties, unions, etc. , they typically form less than five percent of the top office holders or decision-makers.

As they face high unemployment rates and pressures to develop and undertake heir roles as caretakers to be primary, some unions have made tremendous strides to include them by having membership drives targeting women. In some places, women are actually beginning to shift employment from men to themselves, thereby gaining, but at what cost? Employers are hiring women, as they are cheap, reliable, and vulnerable. This keeps women low-ranking, and therefore insignificant. Women in power may be viewed as “honorary males” in the sense that they feel they must overcome their feminine attributes to be seen as respectable by their male competitors.

Since the path to political power through military leadership is blocked for females, as very few women are allowed to climb the ranks, let alone allowed into combat, many women seeking power see fit to put on a facade of toughness and may even attempt to outdo their male counterparts with machismo. This creates tension, due to the fact that while these women are attempting to succeed in rising to power, they are pushing away any feminine attributes of their professional personality by giving themselves and others the impression that they are like men, and are therefore making gender invisible.