The glass ceiling is a well-documented form of institutionalized discrimination against women and minorities that identifies invisible barriers in professional contexts that interferes with their ability to achieve the highest status within their respective professions. The term originated in an article in the Wall Street Journal in the 1980s, and unfortunately, evidence of its persistence continues to the present day.
In this case, the dearth of women in political positions of power and influence perhaps best encapsulates the catastrophic consequences that can come from the glass ceiling. While optimists may point out that there is greater representation of women in Congress today than at any other time in American history, nonetheless the numbers identify that only 19% of Congress is made up of women, reflecting both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This number is far less representative of parity than what is happening in other nations across the globe, including ones less known for their Democracy than ours. Moreover, it hasn’t considerably moved over a number of election cycles, suggesting that it may take a long time for the ratio to represent greater representation within government.
This is what government looks like when one race and sex dominates the ranks: an all-white male panel being convened to decide the fate of health care for the nation, and deciding that of all the extraneous parts of a health care plan, maternity services are one of them. I mean, come on ladies, we were born to become barefoot and pregnant, do we really need the pesky costs that come with actually seeking prenatal care and other health services as we prepare to bring new life into the world? I mean, sure, when it comes to terminating pregnancies (and by the way, this health care plan would also gut coverage for contraceptives—so don’t have an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy but also don’t expect to be given affordable access to birth control measures), male politicians are all for regulations and interventions, but when it comes to a regular, run of the mill pregnancy, we should be able to endure, right?
As Senator Gillibrand was interviewed regarding the all-male panel by the women on the View, she reflected, “Women have a lot to lose. We were really discriminated against by health care companies without Obamacare. We were charged more, being a mom was considered a pre-existing condition for some people” (as quoted by Jerkovich, 2017, para 6). She went on to declare that, “it is offensive and it’s troubling that there are no women” included in the decision-making process (Jerkovich, 2017, para 7). Similarly, Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, reportedly has remarked in the past regarding GOP efforts to overhaul the Affordable Health Care act that it would, “make being a women a pre-existing condition” (as quoted by Terkel, 2017, para 8).
The push for more women and minorities being in politics is not merely for aesthetics, there are high stakes that come with a lack of heterogeneity in representation of our governance. Indeed, as Human Rights Watch reports, “Women’s political participation and leadership are necessary for democracy to function most effectively” (“Why women in politics matter,” 2011, para 7). The two most critical reasons for a more representative government are that when the government is more representative of the greater society, it is more likely to yield stable policy, and that secondly—as is the case right now—without a mixed gender administration, concerns of women in particular are more likely to be disproportionately dismissed, ignored, or rejected.
The GOP attempt to overhaul the present health care system includes a form of institutionalized sexism where the needs of women are being dismissed and marginalized, and the consequences will be catastrophic, not only for women, but for our nation as a whole.
Copyright Azadeh Aalai 2017
Jerkovich, K. (2017, May 8). ‘The View’ is Not Pleased No Women Are Working on Healthcare Bill. The Daily Caller: Entertainment. Retrieved on May 12, 2017 from: http://dailycaller.com/2017/05/08/the-view-is-not-pleased-no-women-are-working-on-healthcare-bill/
Terkel, A. (2017, March 23). Room Full of Men Decide Fate of Women’s Health Care. HuffPost: Politics. Retrieved on May 12, 2017 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/room-men-maternity-coverage_us_58d416e6e4b02d33b749b713
Why women in politics matter (2011, June 24). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved on May 12, 2017 from: https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/06/24/why-women-politics-matter