The United States has never had a female president. Neither has DePauw. And as I researched the past few weeks to try and figure out if the lack of women in these powerful positions was a problem, I found the answer varied.
Some Facebook responders said no, because if a woman was qualified she would have already been chosen. Others said yes, but a woman should not be chosen just because of her gender. Another group, the smallest, thought that, yes, it was a problem, and hiring a woman to say you hired a woman was okay.
Here’s what I think.
In America’s 240 years, not one woman has been president. Only 14 women were considered serious contenders for nominations according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Just 44 even made an attempt.
The first woman to run for president was Victoria Claflin Woodhull in 1872. She’s been followed by Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to compete for a major party nomination in 1964, and Shirley Anita Chisholm in 1972, the first African American woman to run for a major party nomination. Add Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, two very recent candidates, and you have five of those 14 candidates.
Only 14? I struggle to believe no more than 14 women were qualified for this job. I bet the 104 women in Congress (out of 535, by the way) would disagree.
The naïve position that women are not discriminated against because of their gender cannot be true. Studies such as Skidmore College’s Corinne Moss-Racusin’s are proof. Moss-Racusin showed an identical resume with either “John” or “Jennifer” at the top to scientists recruiting for STEM positions. These scientists found Jennifer to be less competent and worthy of a smaller salary than John—despite their identical merits.
Also according to DePauw’s website, women currently make up one-third of the Board of Trustees. One of these women, Sarah Reese Wallace, was the first and only female Chair of the Board. I think several women on the Board would disagree with the claim that they weren’t “qualified” to hold this position.
So don’t tell me that the fact women haven’t been DePauw’s or the United States’ president doesn’t have to do with their gender.
Don’t tell me that our school or country hasn’t had a qualified female candidate for president. Those women are out there and it’s not their fault when we reduce them to nonexistence.
Don’t tell me women shouldn’t get a position just to fill a “quota.” There are skilled women ready for these jobs. Even if they are selected so the university or the country can say it elected a woman, they are still prepared and capable.
And don’t tell me gender shouldn’t matter in a candidate. Because of course it shouldn’t. But in our society right now, it does. And until we acknowledge that gender is just as much a factor as experience, women will never receive equal assessment because we falsely believe they already do.
Instead, tell me we’ll elect a female candidate—if not now, soon. Tell me DePauw is long overdue for female leadership. Tell me we’ll do better recognizing job-search sexism. And that one day we will finally give women the power and prestige they’ve earned.
Sources: Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, DePauw University Archives, DePauw University website.
Sausser is a senior English Writing major from Indianapolis, Indiana.