The 20th century, despite the fact that it was the historical period which suffered the most important changes and evolutions, was still unable to offer gender equality in terms of women’s participation in public administration. However, it is a general acknowledged fact that indeed, some of the most important personalities shaping the world of politics today are women. The example of Condoleezza Rice is rather eloquent for pointing out both the contribution women can have to the world and necessity for encouraging women participation.
Women began taking part in public affairs and in administration once they were given the right to vote, back in the early 1920’s. However, because of their rather limited education and training for political affaires, they failed to have a significant impact on the political life. For instance, “In the first year of women’s eligibility to vote (1921), the Boston League of Women Voters (LWV) promoted women candidates for the City Council.Grace D. Chipman, a former schoolteacher and wife of a politician, was the first woman to run for a seat on that body. Her backing by the LWV was a part of that organization’s campaign to break Irish-dominated ward politics from its control of the Council. She lost, as did the eight other women who ran between 1922 and 1937, when Mildred Harris became the first woman elected to the Boston City Council”. (Petersen Hardy-Fanta, and Armenoff, 2005)
Despite a rather important support for women participation, especially taking into account the Women’s Emancipation movement, even today they fail to be properly represented in decision making bodies, thus “Although this imbalanced representation of women and men in politics conflicts with fundamental democratic principles, there is still no equal participation of women in political decision-making process”. (European Commission, 2000, p 1)
Nowadays, The United States is considered to be one f the most democratic nations in the world. Therefore it was only normal that the signs of change be present in the scheme which details the active status of women in high level politics. Thus, the US Congress has seen for the 2006 legislature the highest number of female members, as “in 2006, women hold 82, or 15.4%, of the 535 seats in the 109th US Congress – 14, or 14.0%, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 68, or 15.6%, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In addition, three women serve as delegates to the House from Guam, the Virgin Islands and Washington, DC”. (Center for American Women and Politics, 2006) Thus, it is clear that there is visible progress in this area.
Condoleezza Rice was named by the Forbes Magazine as the most powerful female in the world, the motivation being that “she is the first African-American woman to become the U.S. secretary of state. She advises the leader of the world’s largest superpower and has an unparalleled level of trust with and access to the president. And she has served two other U.S. presidents, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan”. (Serafin, 2005)
Her personal abilities had propelled her into becoming one of the most reliable persons for the current US president while being able to manage both internal tensions and external sensitive issues. This skills were developed as she had always tried to manage racial discriminations on the one hand, and the handicap of being a woman on the other. The complex nature of her education comes, as she often said from her parents who used to encourage her to see beyond the limits imposed by the society “My parents had me absolutely convinced that, well, you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth’s but you can be president of the United States”. (Wright, 2001)
Indeed, she has played a significant role in giving a new dimension and perspective to the foreign policy agenda, as most commentators notice, “she has transformed the language and image of U.S. diplomacy.” (Kessler, 2005) Therefore, her academic training made her essential element of the Bush Administration “and – because of her gender, background and youth – one of the most distinctive”. (Wright, 2001)
All in all, it can be concluded that women have indeed been deprived of the opportunity to express themselves through politics for most of history. However, seeing the important changes that take place and the positive examples such as that of Condoleezza Rice, it is imperative to consider the reevaluation of women’s role in administration and the need for increased support measures.
Center for American Women and Politics. (2006). Women Officeholders
Fact Sheets and Summaries. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from
European Commission. (2000). Women in political decision-making positions Facts and figures 2000. Medium-Term Action Programme for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from http://www.onlinewomeninpolitics.org/beijing12/women-decision-making.pdf
Kessler, G. (2005). Rice Gives Diplomacy New Focus. Washington Post. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from
Petersen, K., Hardy-Fanta, C., Armenoff K. (2005). As Tough As It: Women in Boston Politics 1921-2004. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from
Serafin, T. (2005). Power Women: Condoleezza Rice. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/11/MTNG.html
Wright, B. (2001). Profile: Condoleezza Rice. BBC News. Retrieved 13 December 2006, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1561791.stm