Melinda Gates: “Being Yourself” Isn’t Always Effective for Women

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Women in Politics: Navigating Challenges and Pushing for Change

As we enter another presidential election year, chaos is inevitable. Yet, at Cosmo, we’ve found a way to not only survive but also feel more positive about the world: by focusing on women.

Image credit: Cosmopolitan

A few elections ago, we launched an award-winning guide on “How to Run for Office” for women. At the time, only 8% of women considered running for office. Fast-forward seven years, and nearly one-third of state legislature seats are now held by women. Women also make up 28% of Congress, up from 19% a decade ago. Plus, we have our first female Vice President.

Now, there’s a new urgency. More women are gaining elected positions but facing gendered obstacles on the job. So, we’re publishing a new guide on how to succeed in office.

Success for elected women often requires support from other women. Our partner in this project, Pivotal Ventures, founded by Melinda French Gates, is investing $1 billion to expand women’s power and influence in the U.S. I caught up with Melinda this spring to discuss our shared passion for helping women thrive.

Melinda highlights that decisions are still made for women instead of by women. Despite her efforts to push for change and get women elected, true gender parity in political representation remains distant. Without change, it could take 100 years to reach gender parity in state legislatures, a timeline Melinda is unwilling to accept.

To speed things up, we need to make it easier for women to run for office and win. This includes providing funding, networks, and training. More importantly, we need to change the system, which wasn’t built with women in mind. Legislative pay isn’t enough to support a family, and the lack of paid leave forces women to choose between a paycheck and caring for a new baby.

By questioning and changing these gendered assumptions, we can accelerate progress. There has been some progress: women now make up 28% of Congress, and some state legislatures have more women than men. However, we still face significant challenges.

Melinda acknowledges that it’s valid to feel disheartened by the slow pace of change. The consequences of inequality are real and painful. But instead of feeling overwhelmed, she encourages channeling frustration into action.

More women than ever are running for office, and they often succeed by leveraging their unique skills and perspectives. Women legislators tend to pass budgets on time and work collaboratively across party lines, proving their effectiveness.

Despite structural barriers, the support and example set by other women can help elected women thrive. Together, we can continue to push for the changes needed to achieve true gender parity in politics.

Re-reported the article originally published in Cosmopolitan.

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