Politics 07 November 2018
It was a big night in midterm election history! In many cases, it was also a night of firsts. Following President Donald Trump's election, record numbers of women entered Democratic primaries and ran for some form of public office during this midterm. Compared to the last midterm election, Times Up reports there were 235 women candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives than a previous record of 167. Among the many inspirational women elected Tuesday night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the youngest elected to Congress.
She is not only an educator and political activist, but also one of the many women, whose win is a milestone during this year's election. This amazing Latina, defeated Republican Rep. Anthony Pappas, who was formerly an economics professor at St. John's University in Queens. She won New York's 14th Congressional District, earning support from 78 percent of voters according to NBC News. It was an expected win after Ocasio-Cortez beat out U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in June.
After her big win, Ocasio-Cortez gave a victory speech last night. “We launched this campaign because in the absence of anyone giving a clear voice on the moral issues of our time, it is up to us to voice them," she proclaims. “We have the duty to stand up for what is right." She concluded her speech with a powerful, inspirational statement. “We cannot stop. Electoral politics is just a tool in a larger tool box of this movement," she says. Ocasio-Cortez also sent a tweet to her followers, grateful for the opportunity of running in this election. “I am so thankful for every single person who contributed, amplified, and worked to establish this movement," she tweeted.
For those who may not know, this 29-year-old was born in the Bronx, and raised by Puerto Rican parents. She got her degree in economics and international relations from Boston University, but also took interest in establishment politics during college while working for Senator Edward. M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, according to The New York Times. Her political involvement didn't end there. After college, she took on new projects in the Bronx that would improve education for children and years later, took part in political activism like the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, also according to the Times.
“We launched this campaign because in the absence of anyone giving a clear voice on the moral issues of our time, it is up to us to voice them," she proclaims.
Witnessing history in the making...
As of today, 117 women won their midterm elections according to The Washington Post. Women are making historic accomplishments. Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is proud to have supported so many female candidates across the country in a recent press release. “A record number of Democratic women are headed to Congress, and women made up the overwhelming majority of congressional seats we flipped from red to blue," he states. “Women are leading the resistance, and the Democratic Party will continue to stand in solidarity with women in America and around the world marching for the equality they deserve – from equal pay and paid family leave, to more affordable health care and child care, to better educational opportunities and the right to live and work free from harassment or assault." He went on to congratulate a few of the newly elected Democratic women.
Record numbers of women ran during this midterm election. Photo Courtesy of Timesupnow.com
Along with Ocasio-Cortez, there is a list of remarkable, diverse group of women who have contributed to a night of firsts.
Stacey Abrams, Democrat: Abrams is currently still running for governor in Georgia. If she wins, she will be the first black governor in U.S. history.
Ilhan Omar, Democrat: Omar is serving as the Minnesota State Representative for the 5th district. She is one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Rashida Tlaib, Democrat: Tlaib is serving as Michigan State Representative for the 13th district. She is also one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Veronica Escobar, Democrat: Escobar is serving as Texas State Representative for the 16th district. She is one of the first Texas Latina's elected to Congress.
Sylvia Garcia, Democrat: Garcia is serving as Texas State Representative for the 29th district. She is also one of the first Texas Latina's elected to Congress.
Ayanna Pressley, Democrat: Pressley is serving as Massachusetts State Representative for the 7th district. She is Mass. first black congresswoman.
Deb Haaland, Democrat: Haaland is serving as New Mexico State Representative for the 1st district. She is one of the Native American women elected to Congress.
Sharice Davids: Davids is serving as Kansas State Representative for the 3rd district. She is also one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.
Abby Finkenauer, Democrat: Finkenauer is serving as the Iowa State Representative for the 99th district. She is also one of the youngest women elected to Congress.
Young Kim, Republican: Kim is serving as the California State Representative for the 39th district. She is the first Korean American woman in Congress.
“A record number of Democratic women are headed to Congress, and women made up the overwhelming majority of congressional seats we flipped from red to blue," states Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.