11 out of 61. In the 61 years of Minnesota Youth in Government since its beginning in 1946, only 11 Youth Governors have been women. In the real political world, statistics like this are common as well. Many females have been elected to powerful positions throughout Minnesota Youth in Government history. Yet, the number of youth female governors is only 18%. This begs the question; do women not think they can do the job as well as men? Do they think that because the history and current mindset of the political world is dominated by men that women don’t have a place? Or is it the voters, who still think that the men are the only ones fit for the job?
We spoke to the Youth Governor of 2009, Logan Dick. She is now an RA for the National Issues Forum. When she chose Jake Peters as her running mate, Dick decided she would be running for the Governor’s position, because people would assume that the male would be Governor. She ran against five tickets, four of which had females also running for the Governor’s position. Dick wanted to help other girls understand that if they were willing to work hard, they could be a leader too. “Women can do just as well as men,” Dick said. “Men are able to look at all of the Presidents of the United States and see that they have all been males. Traditionally, women don’t see themselves as a Governor because of the real political world.”
Louisiana Youth Governor, Folasade Lapite, has also had experience with overcoming political stereotypes. Louisiana hasn’t had a female governor in over 10 years and Folasade broke that streak. She thinks that women are less represented because of social standards and the thought that women can’t be “outspoken”. She touched on the fact that women are often seen in leadership positions, but in positions second to men. “We’re always Vice President, or Lieutenant Governor. It’s not like we aren’t there, we are. We’re just second to the men.” When running against two other women and one man, Folasade mentioned that the women were the ones to really listen to delegates and were open and flexible with new ideas compared to their male competitor. The advice Lapite would give to any young woman wanting to run for Governor, “Go for it, we can offer as much as any guy.”
We went to the voters next – the delegates of Model Assembly. We found that most people would vote for a woman governor but don’t think enough women put themselves out there and actually run. Some delegates thought that women have the idea that men have more power than women, which they admitted was wrong, but also consented that this is just the way society is set up. Others thought the gap between men and women governors is simply because people don’t consider females strong leaders. Although most people said it doesn’t matter what gender you are to be fit for the job of Governor, one delegate said “I think a woman is better fit for being Governor. They bring a different perspective to the job.” We also asked each person interviewed what gender they thought of first when they heard the word “Governor” – every one of them answered male.
Whether it is tradition or the social norm, males have consistently been elected as Governor more often than women over the 61 years that Minnesota Youth in Government has been in session. Many of us have been conditioned to think that men will run things better, because that is what our history has taught us, but women have the same capabilities to run for elected official positions. Women of Youth in Government have been heavily involved and provide great leadership to the program and all those involved. Though men have done a wonderful job in assisting the growth of this great program, it is women’s turn to step-up and even out the ratio of male and female governors.