For the Pensacola News Journal | Sunday, May 2, 2020
Submitted by: Magi Williams, Secretary, the Institute for Women in Politics of Northwest Florida
Women in Politics… Why and Why Now?
A number of important societal institutions and services are influenced by politics: education, healthcare, infrastructure, transportation – the list goes on. Men and women often bring different perspectives on each of those things. Gender differences offer us information and perspective on these issues we would not have otherwise considered. What would happen if you close your eyes and pretend there are no women and no men – only people?
Miles’ Law states that “Where you stand depends on where you sit”. The statement means that each of us owns a different set of ideals, information and perspectives shaped by our backgrounds, environments and interests; none more or less valuable than another, just different. Each of our unique positions can add value to the lives of others – including in politics.
In her book Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates shares a story about rice farmers in India that exemplifies Miles’ Law expertly. Husbands and wives worked their rice fields together, sharing different, but equally important responsibilities. Men planted; women harvested. Traditionally, when charitable funding partner organizations visited with the farmers, the representatives interviewed husbands on how to engineer better seeds for their rice harvests while women cared for children and prepared meals. Men asked for shorter growing times and more production from the plants. Sounds logical, right? However, when the women were included in the conversation, the wives asked for seeds that also grew taller plants so they could pick more without stooping and seeds that yield a crop with less cooking time – allowing more time for other chores. With all those characteristics built into a single seed, everyone benefitted; rice production went up, harvests were more bountiful and less time was spent on food preparation. These changes led to increased prosperity for the families and the entire community. If such a simple collaboration improves life for rice farmers, imagine what inclusion and collaboration in broad- reaching political decisions could do for America’s economy, health and families.
In my own life, when my husband and I work together toward a decision, the decision is consistently more beneficial for all in the long run. I remember being adamant about a piece of art for our foyer. He was equally insistent on a different piece. While shopping together (each searching for our own “perfect piece”), in a turn of serendipity, we found a completely different piece we each liked equally well, which we agreed to purchase. We are both happy now and I honestly can’t remember what I had my heart set on initially. It was a win-win.
No one gave up anything important for themselves in either of these examples and everyone gained something unexpected. Inclusion does that.
The Pew Research Center’s 2018 Women and Leadership Report revealed that overall, the public sees benefits to female leadership. Majorities say having more women in top positions in business and government would improve the quality of life at least somewhat for all Americans. But why and why now? As reported by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox in an article for Forbes, the countries with the top 10 responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are led by women. This includes Angela Merkel of Germany, whose country is experiencing much lower death rates from the COVID-19 virus than neighboring European countries. Wittenberg-Cox writes that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “… clarity and decisiveness are saving New Zealand from the storm”. As of April 14, New Zealand reported only 17 deaths from the virus.
While America and Northwest Florida face the ravages of COVID-19, it is imperative that every available resource be used to achieve political, economic and social recovery. It is vital to make our communities, our families and our economy stronger, more resilient and more prosperous for each and every citizen. Our children deserve the very best, and that threshold can only be reached through effective collaboration and inclusion. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by including women in every step of the process towards emotional healing, economic prosperity and political strength.
I invite you to visit www.IWPFlorida.org to learn more about Institute for Women in Politics and our mission. Everyone is welcome to join us for our August annual meeting or a monthly Lunch and Learn.
Miles’ Law: The phrase originated in remarks from Rufus Miles, Jr., made in late 1948 and early 1949 while working as chief of the labor and welfare branch of the Bureau of the Budget.
“Women and Leadership.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (September 20, 2018) https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/09/20/women-and-leadership-2018/
“What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders” Forbes.com (April 13, 2020) Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, Contributing Writer
Special thanks to Pensacola News Journal for publishing this article. See their edited version at the link in photo caption above.