“Half the Sky” and All that Follows
In the month before the United States elects its 45th president, the possibility of having a female in the highest position of leadership in the U.S. is on the minds of most Americans. And, while the election has highlighted the progress made by women in the past 100 years, it has also unmasked just how far the U.S. has yet to go. All the unspoken biases against women — the national reluctance to accept women as leaders — are no longer unspoken. The news is full of sexist rhetoric, targeting Hillary for her clothing, her hair, her age, her lack of “stamina”– all barriers set up to disguise the real problem, that she is a woman.
I know that this societal inability to see women as leaders is not a problem limited to the United States; it is a global phenomenon, reflecting all women to varying degrees. Yet, women also have the responsibility to force change and to fight for the leadership positions women deserve.
My freshman year of high school, after the second school election in a row where all boys were elected to student government and honor committee, I wanted to have a gradewide conversation about what those results meant. What was supposed to be an important discussion on how we view women and leadership, and what it meant not to elect a single girl from a pool of equally qualified female candidates, blew up. Not only was it disheartening and at times hurtful to have so many boys pitted against me and the other girls for having tried to discuss the elections, but more than anything else, it was the fact that so many other girls joined in the personal attacks against those fighting to reveal the blatant sexism that had occurred during those elections.
“Women hold up half the sky,” and with that, we have the responsibility to support each other. We have the responsibility to highlight the power of our gender, and to feature those brave voices that call for leadership and equality. That is the purpose of this forum — to underline the women who are leading their families, communities, societies, and workplaces — to show girls that all over the world, there are women breaking down the barriers between their gender and their dreams of leadership.