December 06, 2012
Over the past few weeks since the US elections concluded, it seems that everyone has been taking stock of the shift of power on Capitol Hill, including the unprecedented success women candidates enjoyed on November 6th. Although the number of Republican women in Congress has diminished, the Democrats more than made up for it, increasing the number of women in both the House and the Senate.
Less than a week after the election, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to stay on in that role. At a press conference held by Pelosi to announce her decision, a now infamous question posed by NBC correspondent Luke Russert about whether or not Pelosi’s decision to stay politically active at 72 years of age will prevent the emergence of younger leaders within the party, was largely dismissed as an offensive and ageist inquiry, however it raised an interesting point about how to motivate women to get involved in politics – or any industry – at an earlier age.
With all 60 female Democrats from the House standing behind her, Pelosi handled the question gracefully, and in doing so, she underlined the importance of getting women involved in politics from a younger age.
Pelosi noted, “Everything that I have done in my almost decade now of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to the Congress. In my own personal experience, it was very important for me to elect young women.” Acknowledging her party’s need to foster young leaders, Pelosi said she “wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age, so that their seniority would start to count much sooner.”
Check out the video here: Nancy Pelosi Addresses Luke Russert Question
But the issue of fostering young female talent isn’t just a concern in the political arena. The need to nurture, motivate, and engage younger women is critical in order to ensure significant growth in the number of women leaders in all professions.
An early start is important not only for the young woman who wishes to get ahead, but also for all those who will come behind her. Tiffany Dufu, president of the White House Project, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women in leadership in both the political and business worlds, explained that putting young women into the pipeline will “normalize women leaders, so that young women grow up in a world where they can point to hundreds, and thousands, of women leaders who are part of a cycle of role models.”
Another organization, Emerge America, headed by president Karen Middleton, is also working hard to encourage and train women to run for office and to climb the political ranks. Their programs are dedicated to rectifying the “monumental problems exhibited by the under-representation of women” in public office. While the work of organizations like Emerge America and the White House Project is invaluable, we should not overlook the opportunities each of us have to reach young women in our own industries and communities.
It’s never too early to introduce positive role models to young girls. As a working mother of five-year-old twin girls, I am keenly aware of how they view my career as a model for their own futures. But I also recognize that for little girls toys are still more interesting than business. Not too long ago, they each received their first Barbies. As I watched them play with the iconic female figure, I couldn’t help but consider the potentially detrimental stereotypes the doll conveys. When I asked my daughters to tell me about their dolls and what each Barbie was doing while they played. I was absolutely delighted (and a bit surprised, honestly) when I was told that they were having a meeting, with one as the CEO and the other as the CFO. This mom could not have been more proud!
So what can you do to help broaden the horizons for little girls and young women, to show the next generation that their opinions and their actions do matter, and that they can make a difference? I mentioned two organizations above, but there are so many more doing great work to nurture and develop young women and ensure a more balanced representation in leadership positions in years to come.
This is critical work that must continue, so if you know of an organization working toward these goals, please share the relevant links in the comment section below so more people can get involved and help make a positive change for future generations.
To your success!