Power to the she

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

If there were more women in powerful positions, the world would be a better place for everyone.

In Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In For Graduates,” Sandberg recounted when a guest at her book party asked 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee how American women could help those who experienced mass rapes and other war horrors.

“More women in power,” Gbowee said.

Last Thursday, Dr. Linda Livingstone was inaugurated as the 15th president of Baylor University. She is the first female president in 172 years of Baylor’s history, and one of the few female university presidents across the country. According to a recent national survey from the American Council on Education, only 30 percent of university presidents are female.

If they weren’t already looking up to the president, women at Baylor have another role to aspire to with Livingstone’s inauguration. Fifty-eight percent of students who go to Baylor are female.

With more women in powerful positions, they can empathize and make changes that their male counterparts may not think of, in addition to adding a diverse outlook and smart ideas. Our classmates, our sisters and our friends deserve an equal voice in all levels of society.

To empathize means to suffer with. A powerful female knows what it is like to overcome being underestimated and being discriminated against. Powerful females know the reality of workplace harassment, discrimination and sexism. These issues are alive and well because this world is still a male-dominated, patriarchal society. More females in powerful positions means more females advocating for the disbandment of these issues.

For example, in the U.S. population, there are 157 million females compared to the 151.8 million males. But only 21 women serve among the 100 members of the Senate and only 84 women out of 435 representatives serve in the House of Representatives.

The difference is appalling. But the political leaders who are female are fighting for women’s rights. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was one of the senators who fought for the ultimately unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment in 2015.

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu,” Warren said, speaking about the importance of having more females in politics at a fundraiser in 2014.

Warren was also one of the several senators to introduce the Schedules that Work Act in the Senate and House in 2015. The act would put limits on unreliable work scheduling practices that directly affect women who care for children.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, voted for the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act in 2015, seeking enhancements in law enforcement training to better support victims.

“Today marks an important step to combat the spread of human and sex trafficking,” Ernst said. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to the human rights crisis happening across the country.”

Thursday, Ernst tweeted Iowa’s ranking of No. 28 in the U.S. of human trafficking cases and her bi-partisan work to address the issue.

But, the need for powerful women expand beyond politics. According to Fortune 500, only 6.4 percent of the U.S.’s biggest companies are run by women. Sandberg said, while working at Google in 2004, that she didn’t know the dire need for pregnant women to have designated parking spaces until she had to fast-walk across the parking lot with an extended belly.

A man couldn’t live through that experience to know of its importance. If there were pockets of female leaders across the country, working as the CEO of Ford Motors or the manager of your local Kroger, the strength of females would be easily recognizable.

The world would be better because there would be someone in power knowing the importance of having pregnancy leave, daycare at work and strict punishments for workplace sexual harassments. Not only that, but there would be someone in power who is smart and can add a voice that males cannot add.

With more women in powerful positions, we can take one step closer to true equality.