Tennaro: Girls and politicsWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
This week our community was buzzing as Americans exercised their right to vote. There were winners and losers on each side of the aisle, but where do girls fall in that equation?
A recent Girl Scouts Research Institute poll showed two-thirds of those surveyed (1,000-plus 11- to 17-year-old females) were interested in politics — Girl Scouts and nonscouts alike. Eighty-three percent of those girls have participated in civic activities such as a cause or campaign, or engaged with an organization they believe in. The same percentage believe they are smart enough to have a career in politics.
But here’s the catch — only a third are interested in pursuing a career in politics.
Why the disconnect? The research is captivating. Something changes and girls stop having dreams of being the next mayor, congresswoman or president.
They stop short of envisioning political careers for themselves, seeing politics as a man’s world, partially attributable to a media lens that favors men. According to the poll, girls think the media depicts female politicians as more motivated by their emotions and at the same time, less capable, brave, resilient and visionary than their male counterparts. What message are we sending girls through social and mass media?
Even though they don’t want to enter politics, it’s not because of a lack of faith in their abilities. Of those surveyed, 84 percent said they are smart enough to have a career in politics. So they think they have the ability and feel like they’re strong leaders, but they’re not quite picturing themselves in the Oval Office. We need to motivate them to take that next step.
Girls need more support from the community and a growing list of opportunities they can experience and get excited about. Let’s offer more mentoring and job-shadowing positions to girls — inspire them to see the possibilities and positive role models available right here in Northwest Ohio. Female politicians and community leaders can take a more vocal role in dispelling some of the myths that say women are less capable than men.
The vast majority of girls surveyed believe there are other ways than politics to make a difference in the world. We can show girls the power of lasting change accomplished through legislative means, giving girls another space where women are seen as equally qualified decision makers.
Girl Scouts inspires and empowers girls to take action to change the world. Regardless of their political leaning, we want to instill in girls the skills and knowledge they need to become tomorrow’s leaders and take action on the things that matter the most to them — whatever that may be.
Read the full results of the poll yourself at girlscouts.org/research.
Angela Tennaro is director of regional services for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.