In Seeking Political Gender Parity, Choosing Women Solely Because They’re Female Does Not Work

Christiane Amanpour hosted an excellent roundtable this morning on This Week that explored the following observation:

You’d be hard-pressed to find a sex scandal involving a female politician these days, which begs the question, what if there were more women in politics and in positions of power? Would they change the way business is done from Wall Street to Washington and beyond?

I urge you to watch the entire segment (but you can also read the transcript here, located on page 9):

I particularly love when France’s former first lady (Cecilia Attias, previously married to president Nicolas Sarkozy) talks about how we need to help facilitate getting women into the power pipeline:

ATTIAS: …To get the women to those positions, we just have to facilitate their life before. I mean, when you are…

AMANPOUR: Make it easier for them?

ATTIAS: Of course. You have — when you’re a woman, you have three lives. You’re a woman, you’re a mother, you’re a worker. OK, so we have to try to help them to be able to get to those positions. And that’s why I think we have to take the problem at the very beginning, at the very start.

AMANPOUR: Precisely.

ATTIAS: Yes, if not, if you have some kids and you want to have the kids, you have to — I mean, it has to be easier for you to get back to work afterwards. So we have to go, first, the first step. That means make life easy for women and then to be able to get to those responsibilities and…

She also offered a very straightforward warning against the approach that people hold their nose and vote for any woman just to reach parity in the number of women elected to office:

The parity laws [in France], that means as much women of — and men in the government. Alain Juppe, who was prime minister at that time, of what we call the Juppete (ph). That means half-women, half-men in his government. It didn’t work. It didn’t work, why? Because we were choosing the women because she was a female, not because she was good.

Torie Clark, a Bush administration former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, also noted a very practical common observation that I see evident in political arenas too:

CLARKE: …Very often, men will compete for the sake of competition. It almost doesn’t even matter what happens. And you can see guys within a company competing with one another all the time, often to see who can get to the top of the food chain, versus women more often will say, “I’m going to get in there and let’s get this done.” And you go from first person singular to the plural.

While I’ve certainly witnessed plenty of evidence of women who compete for the sake of competition too, as a generalization, I agree with Clarke.

Bonus: Here’s a “Defensive much?” reaction to the segment that heard the commentators saying that men are inferior. I actually don’t think that word was used even once and it’s certainly not what I heard. What I heard was commentators describing the different ways in which and the different reasons why women and men seek and embrace power. That the author at Ethics Alarms heard all the discussion as, “Men are inferior” is merely a commentary on how he values those differences, or how he thinks others value them (which is to say, the way men may seek and embrace power is less desirable than the way women might).

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