The most glaring lack of female participation is also the most ironic. Here in the U.S., the longest-running democracy on the planet, relatively few women hold legislative positions. Even though more women than ever ran in the recent midterm elections, fewer are serving now than in the previous Congress. Women hold only 17 seats in the 100-seat Senate and just 75 (roughly 16 percent) in the House of Representatives. Many developing countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, can boast far greater legislative participation by women. Three Kazakh women have so far applied for candidacy in the country’s April 3 presidential election. In Liberia a woman is president.
Why are women lagging in this of all countries? It may be a matter of round pegs and square holes. Women have tried to fit into a male-constructed world and found it either uninviting or inflexible to their needs. They don’t make it to the top of corporations because they find the long hours and travel impossible to manage with children at home. Too, they may find themselves alienated by masculine style, which psychologists Alice Eagly and Linda Carli describe as controlling, versus women’s, which tends to take into greater consideration the rights of others.
The confounding factors are many, surely. But what we enlightened Westerners know is that empowering women empowers us all. Research shows that companies with more female employees make more money. And recent history makes clear that nations that oppress women are dangerous nations. Until women are equal partners in the human race, we are less secure and surely less interesting."