Former governor of Vermont and author of Pearls, Politics, and Power Madeleine Kunin spoke to Better World Books‘ Dana Barrett (No, not that Dana Barrett) at the recent Green Festival in Washington DC about women in politics, the recent elections, and her new book.
They discussed the things that make some women hesitant to go into politics (many women can’t stand conflict), as well as some of the qualities women possess that would translate well to the world of politics: women are consensus builders, and they are more likely to reach out and be sympathetic to groups outside the power structure, perhaps because they themselves have been outside it for so long.
MK: What shocked me in researching this book is how the United States ranks with the rest of the world. We are, as of this election…17% of the Congress today is female. You know, Iraq and Afghanistan are 25 and 27%. So, why in this democratic country, where women have all the opportunities for education and leadership—why are we behind the rest of the world?
Some of the answers are that women still, and I talked to a young woman after my talk this morning, and she said, “You know, you’ve got to say this again and again.” She volunteered in the Obama campaign, worked with women and men, and she said the guys, you know, when they failed, they sloughed it off. “Oh, too bad. Somebody will fix it.” The women always took it personally. So, sometimes we take the battleground of politics too personally. She also said the women worked twice as hard as the men, and she said a lot of the guys are going to go back home and run for office. And the women aren’t saying that. So, with this, you know, historic election where so many young women and young men were involved, it’s my, you know, hope, and my plea almost: “Don’t stop now!” You know, if you got a taste of politics, you found out it makes a difference, you helped elect this agent of change, Barack Obama—stay with it! And, you know, put your toe in the water yourself, and you might find the water’s fine.