Gender affects public opinion, decision-making, voting behavior, and political involvement at all levels – national, local and on campuses.
The feminists of the 19th and early 20th century envisioned a day when women would not only vote, but also when women’s votes would affect the outcome of elections, and would create a more compassionate, nonviolent society. Such a society would outlaw child labor, aid the poor, treat the sick, care for the elderly, end war as well as violence toward women, and educate the young.
The gender gap in voting is a powerful weapon for women to win equality, reproductive freedom, and a change in the spending priorities of the nation. What the suffragists had envisioned at the turn of the century has now happened at the end of this century. Women are influencing the agenda of the nation with their votes.
William Jefferson Clinton is the first president of the United States elected by the gender gap. Not only did a majority of women vote for Clinton – if only men had voted in 1996, Bob Dole would be the President. The gender gap in favor of Clinton was fueled by women’s concerns about Medicare, Social Security, education, and abortion rights. Men placed greater emphasis on taxes and the deficit in their presidential voting.
Today the under representation of women in the decision-making spheres of all the major areas of our society – elections and appointed office, in business, executive suites, in college and university administration, law, medicine, science, athletics, media and religion – leads to a devaluation of women’s concerns, needs, and issues. Most importantly, the under representation of women in leadership roles leads to a narrowing of choices not only in leadership itself but also in options for decision-making. The under-valuing of women’s talents and contributions to decision-making hurts not only women and girls but also our society as a whole.
If women were equally represented in Congress and state legislatures today, the issue of reproductive choice for women would be settled and the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be ratified. Additionally, affirmative action for women and people of color would remain intact until discrimination had ended, and spending for family planning, health care, the elderly, education, and the poor would be dramatically increased. This is not just wishful thinking – public opinion poll after poll shows a major gender gap on all of these issues. Moreover, studies with elected officials show these same gender gaps (Center for the American Woman and Politics). gender gap on all of these issues. Moreover, studies with elected officials show these same gender gaps (Center for the American Woman and Politics).