Challenges in women’s political and policy leadership:

  • Electing and appointing women leaders at the local and national levels
  • Encouraging women to pursue policy and political leadership
  • Fostering a supportive and empowering environment for women in leadership positions

Q: What is the greatest challenge facing the movement toward gender parity in the U.S. and globally?

A: A large challenge facing the United States with respect to gender parity is the low representation of women in political and policy office. While over 50 countries have had a female head of state, the United States has never had a US President.   The United States ranks at #97 of 187 for women’s representation in legislatures worldwide.  According to the World Economic Forum Gender gap report, the United States ranks at #73 out of 144 in terms of political empowerment.

Although women’s representation in the national legislature reached 20% in 1993, it has not increased to 25% in the years since. The Trump administration will work with a congress comprised of only 104 women – that is 19% representation of women in both the House and Senate. Representation is particularly low in President-Elect Trump’s party: of the women representatives in Congress, only 1/3 are Republicans.

Without systematic intervention and structural change, women may be reaching a similar "glass ceiling" in political life that will make it very hard to advance beyond 25%. The incoming administration must ensure women have the opportunity to grow and thrive as leaders at the local, national and international levels.

Q: What will President-electTrump need to do to manage obstacles and expectations?

A: In order to manage expectations and continue progress towards gender parity, the next administration must appoint women at equal levels in the Cabinet and across sectors and agencies. The Trump administration should also work with the civil service to ensure women are promoted and assume leadership across agencies and departments.

As a global leader politically, militarily and socially, the incoming Administration should look globally and ensure that women are at the decision making tables including peace negotiating tables. The policies of the Department of State and USAID should ensure that women are at the forefront of political and economic development, including governance, peacebuilding and democracy building.

Q: How can greater representation of women in politics influence the Trump administration’s policy goals?

A: Research shows that women leaders have a positive impact on governance, economic growth, gender equality and inclusive sustainable development. When institutions include women in their leadership they improve the honesty, transparency, fairness, inclusivity and empathy of the workplace and the output of the institution. Women in legislatures co-sponsor more bills, are more bipartisan and more collaborative.  Further, an equal representation of women and men leaders allows for better negotiation and collaboration but also equates to increases in GDP and more progressive policies. The quality of everyone’s lives would improve substantially if women’s voices on solutions were heard more often and women were leading the development of policy.

By engaging women leaders in policymaking decisions and fostering an environment in which more women can be represented in important political spaces, the Trump administration can further their policy goals in a way that is collaborative, sustainable, and impactful for all Americans. The movement toward gender parity must not be forgotten as it will affect all aspects of political life in the United States and globally.

One takeaway from this historic election is clear: while there is momentum in the United States in the movement toward gender parity, now is the time to ensure even more women can find a place at the decision-making table at the local, national, and international levels. The goal of 50% women’s representation will only be achieved if the incoming administration makes a firm commitment to its realization.