What If Half of the U.S. Government Was Female?
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What If Half of the U.S. Government Was Female?

October 13, 2019

(light music) – In 1916, Jeannette Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a big deal. That’s because Rankin was the first woman ever elected to Congress. In 1916, four years before all U.S. women were even given the right to vote. (intense music) Since Rankin was elected, the
number of women in Congress has been rising steadily, but
today, even 100 years later, women still only hold 20% of the seats and get this, Vermont,
sorry Vermont, but this is totally true, you still never even elected a single woman to Congress! Other states aren’t much better. Jeannette Rankin was from Montana and yet, she remains the
only woman Montana has ever sent to Congress. In your words, what is a gender quota? – So, a gender quota is gonna be a policy that is going to require
that we either select female candidates or we elect female candidates for elected office. So today, there are more
than 130 countries worldwide that have modified either
their Constitutions or their electoral laws
or party rules to mandate that a certain proportion
of women be included as either candidates or legislators. – [Host] According to the
interparliamentary union, the U.S. lags behind 102 other countries in gender equality and one
of the possible reasons is that nearly half of all
countries on the planet have some kind of gender quota system. – Yes, the United States is well behind many other countries. If you look at the world rankings in terms of women’s share
of legislative office, we’re 103 in the world rankings. We’re between Indonesia and Kurdistan. – At this point, let me ask
a cold and heartless question and I understand the irony
that this is coming from a guy, but why does it even matter how many women serve in Congress? Well, the answer is
that percentages matter. Many experts have calculated
that women need to make up at least 30 to 40 percent
of a governing body before their voices really
start to gain traction. Anything less and it’s almost
like they’re not even there. So if we made America from scratch today, what if we made it a
rule that 35% of Congress needs to be women? – All of the studies that we’ve done that have looked at the
quality of the politicians that we elect via gender quotas suggest that the women that are
elected via those policies are as or more qualified
than their male counterparts. So, my work from Uganda
and Sweden shows that. There’s from Italy and
from France, Morocco, and so quotas increase
women’s presence in office without degrading the
quality of representation. – So, why have so many
countries adopted gender quotas? – Pressure from the
international community. So, the United Nations
and other international governing organizations
strongly support gender quotas and so now, what we see, for example, is virtually any country
that’s coming out of a conflict and creating a new constitution,
doing constitution building is going to be strongly
encouraged to adopt a quota to ensure women’s presence in politics. – Quotas, as you can imagine, are a pretty controversial topic. Many people say that
they’re anti-democratic or even anti-equality
because they’re giving preferential treatment to
a certain type of person. Some people argue that
it’s an un-American idea. – So, I strongly support
the election of women to legislative office and I
think that’s really important for lots of reasons. I do not support having
a gender quota rule or a gender quota law for U.S. Congress. In many cases, what gender quotas do is strengthen the hand of party leaders who hand-pick candidates. So, if you’re in Mexico, for example, now there’s a parity law, 50%
of candidates have to be women and so, gender quotas actually
don’t challenge that system. They still allow kind of an old school type of politics where you have people hand picking your preferred candidates and so, that preserves the status quo and it means that the
women who get selected, like the men who get
selected, tend to be loyal to the party bosses, to the party leaders. – [Host] Then there’s
representative Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American
Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States. Even though she has said
that everyone wanted to make gender an issue during her campaign, she still doesn’t believe a quota is the right path to parity. – I don’t know if having
a gender quota set in law is helpful, but I think
have that as the people vote to think about getting you
know, equitable representation. I think also, it becomes
a hindrance for success while after election, right? Because people just see you
as being a representative of that gender or identity or whatever. We can nudge people out
of their complacency to recognizing that our
democracy really hasn’t been that representative
and it really hasn’t been that reflective of the
communities around our country. – Several studies have shown
that a majority of U.S. women still believe they face barriers to office based on their gender
and they say they feel discouraged from getting involved. – Research shows that ya
know, young men and women, when they see women in office, they think, “Oh, I could run for office,” and it shapes their vision of
what’s possible in the world. So that has a really, really
powerful effect in terms of challenging stereotypes that
people have about gender. – While we believe a
white person can represent everybody, people of
color can only represent, or women can only represent places where there’s a majority of them. They can only represent their voices. I mean, it certainly played out in my race whether it is true or
not, people still believe that I am elected as a person of color, as an immigrant because I must represent a community that is a reflection of me. Well, my community is a reflection of me not because of my identity
or my gender, right? Because my community is 70% white and that’s not a conversation
that people have. They are often surprised
because they think of my district as being the
minority majority district. – Those who favor quotas
say this is exactly the reason we need them. They can fast track social changes that would otherwise take generations. – I mean, you’re absolutely right. It’s gonna take a long
time for us to get to 50% men, 50% women, ya know, 150 years sometimes is the estimate and that’s why a lot of countries adopted gender quotas in the first place because the rate of change was so slow, they realized if you just
adopt a gender quota, you can bump up to a really
high level really quickly and that’s proven to be
true in case after case. – As you can see, there are smart people on both sides of this
idea, but to be fair, there may be one other huge reason why quotas may not work in America. That has to do with how we vote. Do you think that we would be able to have a gender quota based on
our electoral system? – It’s difficult to imagine it and there have to be
kind of limits or caps on the number of men and
women who can run for office in a particular primary. Right now, the only thing
you need to run for office is you have to be a citizen,
you have to meet the age requirement and you have to meet the residency requirement. So, to impose gender as a criterion there which is what a gender quota would do, it’s just really difficult to
imagine that actually working. That said, we do have gender
quotas in the United States. When the trafficking was
expanded to women in 1920, both the Republican and Democratic parties adopted gender quotas for
positions of leadership within the parties. Just last week, the state democratic party in the state of Pennsylvania,
there was an election for the members of the
democratic committee and the top vote getters were all women, but because they have a
quota of 50% men, 50% women, they took two men and
kind of bumped them up even though they weren’t
the top vote getters because of the gender quota that existed. So, in a political moment
where you have a lot of women running for office, the
gender quota could actually work as a ceiling rather than as a floor. – I think we’re a long way from parity, and particularly less
incumbency is really strong. Over 90% of incumbents win
reelection when they run and most incumbents are are men. So, I think if we’re gonna
just do things slowly, we’re a long way from
being at even a third of our legislators being
women, let alone 50%. – So, let’s break this down. On one hand, there are places where quotas appear to be working. On the other hand, they seem
to present new challenges for the very people they’re meant to help and we might have to totally
rebuild our voting process to make them workable. So, what do you think? Would a quota system be a good idea? How would our government
change if we had it? Let us know your thoughts. Thank you so much for
watching America From Scratch. I’m enjoying this brownie but I have a great question for you. Our next episode is
gonna be about mandatory military service, so click
the link in the description and let us know what you
think about mandatory military service. Also, do not forget to subscribe to us. Thanks so much. Mm, God. This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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  1. Here's a compromise: What if we enacted a temporary gender quota, say for 5 years? Think of it as a pilot program. That way we could have the fast change we want, but any problems that it creates would be short term. And if it works, we could renew the quota, or even make it permanent. When we talk about "The American Experiment", I think we should take that literally: running experimental pilot programs to see what works, so we can enact evidence based policies.

  2. i know this is supposed to be 'hypothetical' and therefore immune to criticism, but this is typical propaganda tactics. here's a 'hypothetical' for you: Should the government have a quota re: Jewish people? Right now, if we go by percentage of the population, they're over-represented in government. So should we institute a quota, you know, like the Ivy League schools did back in the early 20th century?

  3. How about we just get the most qualified person to do it and we stop waisting time trying to force quotas. Lets invest time in democracy get rid of money in elections, lobbyists, gerrymandering, super delegets, closed primaries and, the electoral college! Wow The guy that wrote this must be a genius. lol

  4. I think a major problem in implementing this in the US is the fact that you don't elect groups of representatives – you elect a single representative in each district. In countries that use party lists instead of district divisions, it would be a lot easier to implement because you can just say that each list needs to have X% women. I could see why in a system like the US's it would be a lot harder to have a diversity quota of any form, and that people would see representatives as "just there because of the quota".

  5. Well, I started disliking this video, and then changed it to a like, but still, I find quotas of any kind undemocratic. If you allow a gender quota, I can't see how you would be against wealth, education, and finally qualification quotas. I like me representatives educated and qualified, thank you very much.
    Also, fucking Uganda? As a good example? Everywhere in the undeveloped world quotas are used to stack the legislature with yes-women (or yes-whatever the quota is). A quota wont help a bad system become good, only hinder it.

  6. I think one of the major problems is that there is such large controversy surrounding gender. We absolutely need to ensure women's presence in politics. We need to start somewhere, so let's get representation for women, then we can start to work for the rights of those whose gender identities lay outside the binary.

  7. I thought the title asked if the US government should require half the population to be female, and I was like, "No, that's a bad idea"

  8. Any quotas in elected officials representing a specific district are inherently wrong as they limit the people's choices. Now the way to correctly do this is to have a separate body. Let's call it the Senate that is not restricted by boundary lines. Here, people vote for parties instead of candidates. It is the responsibility of the parties then to fill the slots won with the correct quotas to balance out the legislature (which should be a parliament).

  9. I don't like that women are underrepresented in our elections but I am much more disappointed over the lack of nonchristians in power – all members of both parties either claim to be Christian or at least refuse to openly admit it if they are not. At least four representatives – Reps. Huffman, Raskin, McNerney, & Kildee have launch the Congressional Freethought Caucus. That's a start.

  10. Quota is a good idea, unfortunately because America has a history of misusing policies that are meant to help the marginalized this can lead to a larger divide and more complications. What needs to happen is the cultivation of young girls and women to take control. Political women of today must lead female politicians if tomorrow. Furthermore, leading your city, state and country must be a powerful woman leading everyone not just about being a women representing women. Be knowledgeable, empathetic, passionate, and want to do the job for more of a reason than because you're a woman. We need leaders. We need hope. PEOPLE need hope. All people need hope.

  11. Then they need to run and win. If not you would be denying someone their representative in favor of your own.

  12. i dont know enough to side either way, but i think we need to do something. Otherwise, things will take their course on their own, slowly

  13. I am saying this as a woman – NO! absolutely not. We should avoid at all costs anything that even resembles compelled action, speech, or thought and a rule requiring that a certain percentage of the legislature must be women is compelled action. To require such cheats the citizenship and makes slaves of them. Last I checked we illegalized slavery in the US before any human alive was even born and since then have extended the privilege of voting to all adult citizens regardless of gender, race, religion, national origin, etc. The same can be said of the privilege to run for office as it is granted to all citizens over a certain age with the age differing according to the office. This broad spectrum voter and candidate base means that we have a grand diversity of thought and that each thought matters.

    We should elect our public servants on nothing more than how well their ideas match with our own and on their ability to perform the duties of the position. Any increase in the number of women or minorities should come about naturally and should be the result of legitimately changing the minds of the voter base. After all, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

    To achieve a greater number of women in office we don't just need more women with the desire to lead but also with the ability to lead. In fact, I would say that ability is far more important than desire. I just came up with this idea; I propose that instead of compelling our adults to pick more women for office that we instead educate our girls on what it means to hold office. This should be a gradual and voluntary course available for free to all children over a certain age, maybe 12, or even just to those children who have passed a reading and writing comprehension test, and should be taught by a volunteer base of nonpartisan adults. The best teachers would probably be adults who had previously held a public office and this would provide a great way for retirees to volunteer politically. The goal of the program would be to help children to 1) gain an understanding of what voting is and why they should want to vote 2) Understand the framework of our nation, how it has changed and why, and the history behind it. 3) provide them with the foundational understanding of philosophies which influenced the founding of our own nation and states. 4) gain a clear understanding of the duties of each political office along with the challenges that might be faced by each and the checks and balances in place to ensure that the person holding the office does not overstep their bounds. and 5) enter adult life as an empowered participant in the political arena whether they chose to never do anything more than vote regularly or they chose to pursue public office. The trouble is I'm not even sure where to start with this myself.

  14. The advocates of quotas aren't just facing objections based on democratic principles and equal treatment of individuals. They're also implicitly rejecting the idea that on average, men and women have very different natural preferences which result in far more men than women who feel powerfully driven to enter politics.

  15. Here's a proposal which accepts the idea that there's an imbalance in which gender chooses politics as a vocation: In every election cycle, for each party, the candidates plus the elected officials not facing election must be a minimum 30% women and a minimum 60% men. If we have quotas, I'd say that's an eminently fair compromise.

  16. I'm against representation quotas at all. One of my Senators is female (and I plan to vote for her again) but, I don't see that as the solution to this problem. Maybe if we break the two party system we'll see a more equal system.

  17. I feel like the argument that it may act as a ceiling feels like tunnel vision on very specific cases. Like, yeah, if we're at the point where more than half of people who win elections are women, then it might be time to rethink it. But until then, if your alternative is just "do nothing"…well that's not really going to enact change, is it?

  18. I am feminist but I can promise you if a male is a better candidate, I'm not voting for the female. This idea of a gender quota makes little sense to me. If the woman deserves the spot, she'll get it. Woman in power are great, but there is no need to change the rules to increase the number of them.

  19. I think a gender quota might be most viable in the US if we applied it, at least initially, to the Senate. There are already 2 senators from each state, so 1/2 senators from each state could be a woman. Again, hard to implement and role out but it might work at the base systematic structure.

  20. As a woman, myself, my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT! There should be NO immutable trait criteria for any job! Men have wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, etc., for which they can draw their views from, just like women have husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, etc, for the same. People should be hired based on capability, not for any other reason. Keep in mind that women, just like anyone else, don't share the same "voice." To assume we do is pretty insulting.

  21. This is such a dumb idea. If more women sought out public office, more women would be elected. Look at the most recent primaries. Women have signed up to run, and what a coincidence, they’re winning primaries in record numbers. Instituting a quota is nothing more than social engineering.

  22. This may seem a little abstract, but I think the problem here is that women in public offices are on the rise, and probably exponentially so. (More women hold office, which causes more women to WANT to run for office. From 0% to 1% was a huge jump, but from 40% to 50% would probably happen overnight.) Putting in quotas would be like saying that women will NEVER get full representation unless a bunch of politicians today (mostly men) make women in office a thing. In a way, it would be a way for men to steal credit for women's accomplishments in getting elected, and a way for the government to steal credit from voters for doing the right thing.

    Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the incumbents getting reelected. Most of them are pretty old, so we can just wait for them to die. (Harsh, but true.)

  23. Another problem is that if we establish quotas for women, then we risk establishing other quotas as well. Black quotas, Jewish quotas, left-handed people quotas, people with blue eyes quotas, people who listen to dubstep quotas… We can't have a perfect microcosm of the nation. What we really need (which is at least on paper what we have) is people who represent their districts by popular vote. Maybe a women voting feels more represented by a man who shares here values than a woman who does not. It should be up to her to decide. (Remember, half the people voting in the elections are women.)

    And I don't even want to get into the complex issue of gender-self-identification. (Does a women quota include trans-women or just cis-women?)

  24. Employ a semi-anonymous way of voting. Like what female authors do about just publishing their initials along with their surnames. Along with their names, put all their credentials that would help them in being voted. No pictures. No paraphernalia. If there are debates, only in writing and must be done impromptu. But still preserving semi-anonymity.

  25. The whole idea of 50/50 gender equality always reminds me of that notorious RBG quote about how many women need to be on the supreme court for it to be fully equal (nine, since there have been nine men on the court before). I guess this means we won't have a fully equal congress until we have an all female congress (I'm willing to wait, but not for long 😉 )

  26. I think encouraging parties to adopt rules to put forward a certain percentage of women candidates would sidestep some of the difficulties of just trying to impose it on the national or state level.

  27. I have no comment on this particular issue. Either people think that you can't get elected and only were because of the quota or we continue to have the disparity problem for generations to come, but at least they were elected on their own.

  28. I feel like this episode could have benefited from a representative from those countries with hard gender quotas speaking about their experience and how it affected their country's politics.

  29. No. The United States will be better off at gender parity in government but pushing it too fast will cause conservatives to lose their minds and people like Donald Trump will be elected. Social progress is good, but it should happen at a pace the country can tolerate. Even if it takes 150 years, that is a very short time relative to the span of human history.

  30. Oh ya ! let’s not run on merit ?. If we wanted more women in government we would vote them in ! Like Nicky Haley ! I’ll vote for her for president after Tump finishes his second term . No quota ! Run be Great!, you’ll be in office in no time . Remember Hillary is a woman and quotas won’t make America . America must want clear views , then acting on that platform. Just like trump is trying to do .vote republican help clean up Washington make our government accountable.

  31. Woman are fantastic! But what about Maxine waters . our needs are based on the country as it changes ,we should all be able to decide those needs man or woman! Stop with the I can’t get a fair shake ,look at Nicky Halley she will return to government after taking some time off. Look at this young woman as she speaks ,I’ll bet she can hold any office she runs for . Thank you for serving our country Nicky Halley .

  32. What if we double the number or congresspeople and have male and female counterparts for each state and district in Congress? It may still have the downside of giving us the "woman congressman" and the "congressman," but it would also fix a problem in the US where the people in general and as a whole are underrepresented on the national stage.

  33. Our society should reward competency. 
    Having quotas by definition means that people would be selected for candidacy based on something other then merit. What could be more anti-democratic?

  34. Why assume that the difference in representation of men and women is due to oppression? There are potentially many reasons why there are less women, including the choices women make. What institutional barriers are there that are preventing women from entering congress? From what I can see we, generally speaking, have equal opportunities, which is how it should be.

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  36. Women should know their place. They are in the home to take care of their Husband and Children. While they aren't doing that they should be doing dishes, washing cloths and have a healthy delicious, meal waiting for her Husband when he gets home from work. The floor may need washing too. Then there's the bath rooms that need cleaning. I'm Joking.

  37. Any mandated quota is racist, sexist, etc. we are the greatest nation on earth BECAUSE we don’t have quotas.

  38. Don't vote by gender you idiots. Vote for the best person to do the job. Next football will go 50 50 male female. Vote for the quality of leadership, not for what looks appropriate to a special interest.

  39. If we solve representation problems by just arbitrarily slapping a quota on everything, will we have quotas for religion? for personality type? for IQ? for urban vs. rural? for race? for immigration status? height? native language? county?

    If not, why is biological sex so much more important than the other things? Why are the genitals you were born with (or that you identify with) so much more important in determining your political views?

    Bottom line is that quotas are utterly absurd. They're absurd even for senators (in that exactly two are required from each state), although there are more legitimate logistical reasons for that. If you want to accomplish something (equal rights, hate crime protection, reproductive health issues, immigration reform, etc), legislate it directly. Don't artificially choose arbitrary quotas to do it for you. The whole idea of quotas is based on stereotyping people and assuming that they will behave in a certain way (vote for particular issues) because of their sex, race, or other proxy attributes. Prejudice should not be fought with prejudice.

  40. People get elected to Congress, it's called democracy, man there are way to many stupid people in this country,

  41. fuck a quota ! Im a female and I believe in quality over anything ! Ill never get butt hurt because the lack of women in politics , I wont vote for a female just simply because she is a women ,its irrelevant . Its about who is the best , who is most efficient and fit, shares similar vision / beliefs etc etc . I personally haven't found a female political role model im fond of but I think it will happen its just gonna take time and effort . No cutting corners because of your gender is key! No one will respect you if you only got where you were because of a quota! Disgrace !

  42. Certainly women are more qualified than men to discuss and legislate on women's reproductivehealyhcare rights.

  43. And why have we not adopted gender quotas? With more women in office, the more fair and actually representative of our society our government would be! Then more would hopefully be done for women's rights! Abortion rights, no more pink tax, domestic abuse and rape legislation revampings!

  44. Quotas are suppose to be temporary. Just the time to sustainably reequilibrate a situation with the danger to create new inequalities if we don't.

  45. I think instead of quota's if we make it easier and more inviting for women and minorities to get involved in the political process, if we have pay equity for women in this country, if we write policy that lift women up in society and give them the tools to run for office, to run as our representatives; that they would easily and gladly take the mantle.

  46. We don’t vote for people based on what is between their legs. This is just a stupid argument. It’s the quality of deals not sex. Never. No.

  47. gender (diversity in general) quota will just make it likely trans-identified males will be given priority over females. im not against advocating for female representation, but forcing the issue only enrages the public and backfires against women in the long run because the patriarchy stretches the very letter of the law (semantics) to their favor, no matter what. we should be educating and spreading the female perspective and change public opinion organically.

  48. Then the government would be even more ineffective and get even less shit done, since half it's workforce would take out more sickdays than the men and disappear on "maternity leave" every once in awhile.

    Great plan…

  49. U r crazy, what about blacks, our Vote is being subpressed in over half the states that’s black men and black women.go figure

  50. Liberals are the most sexiest and racist people out there, ,, why is that alll they ever talk about, they are fanatical about it, thry use it to win election and destroy people that disagree with them

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