It’s difficult not to notice the recent trend in the United States, no matter the party, of choosing women to fill the role of Secretary of State. This has been the highest-ranking Cabinet position filled by a woman. It seems that the so-called “weaker sex” isn’t so weak anymore. The Secretary of State carries out the President’s foreign policies. She is his eyes and ears in terms of negotiations and diplomacy. It may be the most important job next to the Presidency. The relations with the rest of the world determine the safety of the country. The person filling this position must be trustworthy, confident, and most of all, cooperative.
A 2007 study revealed that women are indeed experts of compromise. In the Swedish study, women were found to be twice as cooperative as men. Could this possibly be a factor in determining who will build and maintain foreign relationships?
As our society progresses, we are seeing more women in government than ever before. Now that Secretary Clinton has announced she will not serve a second term, it is rumored that President Obama is considering another woman, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. With men still outnumbering women in political positions, it still takes a conscious effort to nominate a female candidate.
However, as with many women having been considered for a prominent position, they are more harshly scrutinized for their demeanor rather than their actual policies. An example is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Remember the criticisms against her clearly focusing on her temperament and doubting her intellect? Once again, President Obama is considering another woman, Rice, for a high position of power who has also been considered harsh. It is clear there is a double standard of male vs. female leadership. It wasn’t too long ago that women were said to be too weak to handle leadership positions, now that they are proving that they can with the same aggressive political strategies used by men for centuries, but are considered too tough and offensive. Surprisingly, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), someone who strategically chose a strong-minded and aggressive female running mate in 2008, has been one of Rice’s strongest opponents, stating that he would block her nomination by creating a filibuster in the Senate.
In fact, with more women entering the political arena, they may have an advantage once they are in office. Being cooperative as well as aggressive is a mixture of traits that is hard to come by. By no means am I assuming that all women possess this magical combination, but women’s roles as peacemakers throughout the world are showing a fresh perspective to solving political disputes. A shining example is Rwanda’s Parliament, which holds the highest number of women in the world. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated, “Women, who know the price of conflict so well, are also better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it. For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls.” If only Americans, including the media and current male politicians, could let go of their hang-ups on women in positions of power, our society could move forward.