Marie Wilson, founder and president of the White House Project, an organization that works to increase women?s leadership roles, advocated for gender equality and increased female leadership Thursday night in Philips Autograph Library as part of WCU?s LUVIM programs.Wilson discussed ways to change the structure of power and gender inequality that exists in America with students, faculty and staff. Wilson said that the perception of women created by the press and pop culture must change in order for females to gain greater leadership opportunities in the United States.
Wilson said that American culture and society does not create the notion of the female as a powerful, authoritative figure. She mentioned the fact that 86 percent of elected officials under 35 are male, and 81 percent are white.
“The socially approved role for a woman is still wife and mother,” she said. She also claimed that women may think about running for a leadership role, but they often don?t do it.
To create gender equality, Wilson said that more females need to run for positions of leadership and political office, so other females that hold power will not be outnumbered and intimidated by men. “When you have only one woman in leadership, she has to be the man for the job,” she said. “As long as there?s only one woman running, gender will be all that matters.”
Wilson also said that change and gender equality must occur through political will and ambition. “The only way for things to get done when women leaders get together is to have political will,” she said.
Wilson also encouraged the audience to change the media and pop culture in the country in order to spark change.
She mentioned the need for female leadership roles on popular television shows and movies as a way to change the national perception of women. “I have no shame in going to Hollywood and nagging them to make the mayor on ?CSI? a woman,” she said. “You have to be outrageous if you want to make change.”
Wilson has succeeded in changing pop culture. For instance, she created a campaign to have a President Barbie doll as an influence to girls, and in 2000, presidential Barbie was introduced to the world.
Wilson also spoke to WCU students, faculty, and staff about the power that the press and news forces have in the United States and the perception of women they help form. She blamed the press for often failing to focus on the issues female politicians propose, and instead being interested in personal aspects of female politicians, such as their hairstyle or other physical aspects.
She said that the press and news programs “make or break political careers.” Wilson did a study a few years ago concerning Sunday morning political television programs. She said that the press and news programs “make or break political careers.” Wilson did a study a few years ago concerning Sunday morning political television programs. The study concluded that on programs such as “Meet the Press,” the appearance of male politicians outnumbered female politicians 10-1.
Wilson said that gender equality and greater female leadership is a benefit to the country. She mentioned that women bring new ideas to the table, and they offer fresh voices, which benefit a democratic society.
Currently, Marie Wilson is continuing forward with the White House Project, hoping to see a female president of the United States sometime soon. The organization has recently launched the Vote, Run, Lead program, which trains females to run for office, while encouraging people across the country to vote.
Wilson has been an advocate for gender equality and greater women?s leadership roles for over 30 years, and she was also president of the Ms. Foundation for Women. She stepped down from her position as president of the Ms. Foundation for Women last June, in order to devote more time to the White House Project.
Wilson has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio, “The Today Show,” and elsewhere. Her current book is “Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World.