Advancing Women’s Education

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Around the globe, women have had to face the same immense barriers in entry to claim leadership opportunities, with a disproportionate number concentrated in lower-authoritative leadership positions when they are claimed (Davis & Maldonado, 2015) This is especially true in political participation, as not only are women under-represented, but due to the lack of past female role models, they may lack the confidence in their ability to get elected over men even when they are more qualified (Beshiri & Puka, 2016). Although women's participation in politics has substantially increased in the last one hundred years, the reality of legislatures having a fifty-fifty split of men and women is still in the distant future for many countries (Paxton & Hughes, 2017). It has also been demonstrated that when women are present and active in their governments', they can increase the quality of political decisions, improve diversity, and inspire young women to also enter the arena, further increasing participation (Paxton & Hughes, 2017). One of the driving factors for women to enter the political arena and be more involved in politics in general is education. Women that have access to educational opportunities are more likely to participate in politics, as they better understand the world around them and gain the confidence to pursue roles in their government and leadership opportunities.

Linking Confidence to Education

In 1890, no woman in the world had an individual voice in choosing their government officials, much less a seat in the room where politics were discussed and policies were decided. Men used science in order to justify their exclusion from politics, higher education and many aspects of public life, suggesting that white women and people of color had small brains which caused a lesser power of reasoning (Sima, 2016). Although there were countless women who had influence outside of these prestigious rooms and continuously fought for a woman's right to pick their own leaders, like Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, they were not able to influence enough women to demonstrate that an immediate change was needed and many women accepted this status quo. Part of this was due to the long standing tradition of non-participation by women in politics and many did not feel adept or confident enough to broach this barrier. More importantly, many women in this time period lacked the more formal education that their male peers received and at the same time were expected to keep out of politics (Kohrs, 2015). Education, as decades of political science research have concluded, not only helps bring individuals into the public sphere but also serves to increase participation in their government's affairs (Hillygus, 2005). Female participation in politics will advance with more education, as it provides the skills for successful political engagement and provides the knowledge of democracy through accepting its principles and encouraging civic education.

Additional years of education can equip women with political tools that can ease the hardships of political engagement by teaching them the importance of engaging in self-rule and showing them the behaviors necessary for identifying political preferences, understanding politics, and pursuing political interests (Hillygus, 2005). Another helpful behavior is confidence, as confidence leads to action, attention, and resilience, which are all qualities that are needed to run for a public office. Men have a tendency to overestimate their abilities and performances, which also means they tend to have the confidence to enter and stay in the political race. When women gain confidence, they can become more competent leaders than men, and they also attain higher levels of education and gain more political experience overall (Paxton & Hughes, p. 195). In 2017, around 34.6 percent of women graduated college or obtained a higher educational degree, this means that when compared to 1940, more than 8 times as many women have attended college in 2018 (U.S. Census Bureau). Several studies suggest that female legislators may be even more effective lawmakers than their male counterparts due to their high effort, consensus building, and issue specialization that helps them achieve increased legislative effectiveness when faced with certain factors (Anzia & Berry, 2009; Volden &Wiseman, 2010). Education allows for many opportunities of risk taking, failure, and perseverance which are essential to confidence-building and will help women gain the necessary resilience in order to run for office.

Improving resilience requires verbal skills and determination, and universities social science curriculum can be a positive aspect in cultivating confidence, and a quite strong predictor of political engagement itself (Hillygus, 2005). An example is classes in this curriculum that increase a student's knowledge about other cultures around the world, as democratic systems cannot function when one is afraid of neighboring countries as misinformation and stereotypes can create fear and prejudice of those who are different from us (Reuell, 2011). Women need these classes in order to show they have the qualifications to acquire jobs in the field and understand they have a place in international politics. They have had an overall small presence in international and intercultural relations, with the first women being appointed the first female chief of mission in 1933 and today women make up 22% of senior leaders at the State Department and only 29% of the chiefs of mission at U.S. embassies (Vagnoux, 2015). Although this is a clear improvement from the 19th and 20th century in terms of foreign relations, women constitute hardly more than a quarter of the positions in international policy compared to their fifty percent in the population (U.S. Census Bureau). Increasing women's education through a better understanding of the world around them would help shatter the glass ceiling by helping them understand other democratic systems and how influencing policy can improve both their family and political life.

Maquiladora Women: Advancing Education

Women who work in the manufacturing field at the border of the United States and Mexico demonstrate the importance of attaining knowledge, although the education is gained through work experience instead of a traditional school background. Their current position, which has been accelerated by liberal U.S. social attitudes and economic benefits that have drifted across the border, has granted working-class women an unusual degree of domestic clout and social freedom that is not a cultural norm (O'Connor, 1998). Maquiladora is the name given to these foreign companies set up on the Mexican side of the United States border which were built for the process or assembly of parts or final products. The factories began as low skilled, manual labor jobs in the 1960s but have evolved into higher skilled jobs in electronics brought in by Japanese companies. Because of this evolution, the Mexican women in maquiladora electronic companies had a higher level of education than the national average (Ram?­rez, 2006). The full and equitable participation of women in public life is essential to the building and sustaining of strong, vibrant democracies and getting an education, even as part of a job, can give women everywhere an opportunity to participate in public life.

Maquiladora's increased options of employment outside the household and the accompanying increases in a woman's ability to make her own choices, especially regarding marriage and fertility, are a result of their education about how women are treated in other countries (Atkin, 2009). The multiple job selections and educational opportunities given to women, represented by the Maquiladoras, have helped give Mexico a congress that will have women make up 49 percent of the lower house and 51 percent of the senate, ranking them fourth in the world for women's legislative representation (Hinojosa & Piscopo, 2018). Mexico had implemented a 30 percent gender quota in 2003 that had multiple scandals of major party corruption, but by 2009, women all over the country, with help from prominent female politicians, banded together. They formed a compromise that spanned all parties and pressed officials of the National Electoral Institute to rewrite the quota rules and took the political parties to court in order to ensure the fairness of gender quota laws (Hinojosa & Piscopo, 2018). The female representation increase throughout Mexico and the fight for less corrupt gender quotas have helped demonstrate that the expanse of a women's worldview and training provided by job opportunities, like manufacturing, have helped educate them about the importance of civic engagement.

Women of the world need to be educated about their levels of representation in politics, as they tend to overestimate women's political presence and would be more likely to run for office or vote if they understood the lack of female political leaders (Paxton & Hughes, 2017). A prominent counterargument for not pursuing higher education is the cost, as school is expensive for many people and continues to increase due to fees, continual lack of funding from the state, and the uncertainty of a job after graduation (Skjortnes & Zachariassen). Mexican women must also face the cost of their culture, as staying home and taking care of their kids and husbands is expected to be prioritized over any educational opportunities (Zoldos, 2018). The benefits of education far outweigh the cost however. When educated women were compared with their less educated counterparts studies found that in totality the women who have a college degree spend less time on housework, more time on paid work and child care, and express greater gender equality concerns (Usdansky, M.L. & Parker, W.M., 2011). This is demonstrated by the Maquiladora women in Mexico, as their transition into the public sector has educated them about their abilities to be leaders and to change their government.


Women that have access to educational opportunities are more likely to participate in politics, as they better understand the world around them and gain the confidence to pursue roles in their government and leadership opportunities. According to the National Democratic Institute's (NDI) Chairman Madeleine Albright, women in power ""can be counted on to raise issues that others overlook, to support ideas that others oppose, and to seek an end to abuses that others accept."" Women are continuing to inch closer to their goal each year, with a record number of women in the United States being elected to state legislatures nationwide in 2018, and the proportion of seats in state legislatures held by women will be at least 27.3% in 2019, which surpasses the current level of 25.4% (CAWP). Increasing the education of women around the world will create a multitude of high ranking women who will act as role-models, which will create wider awareness of women's rights and the need for more female politicians to fight for current and future rights (Vagnoux, 2015). Women becoming experts in the political field is the best way to encourage continual female civic engagement and inspire future women to be leaders in their democracy, increasing female political participation for years to come.

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Advancing Women's Education. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved June 20, 2024 , from

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