Young girls who get into the ring and talk politics is always something I can get behind, regardless of whether I agree with their views or not. If it’s simply a tweet or a Change.org petition, I admire young women (and men) who take it upon themselves to be a part of the conversation and effect change. And with teenagers Elena Tsemberis, Sammi Siegel, and Emma Axelrod at the wheel, that change very well could be a woman moderating this year’s presidential debates.
The three young ladies from Montclair, New Jersey are petitioning President Obama and Mitt Romney, along with a handful of campaign managers and press secretaries, with over 11,000 signatures. The teenagers write that after learning a woman had not moderated a presidential election in two decades, they felt compelled “to take action.” Sammi and Emma specifically cite representation of women in leadership and more male-dominated fields of study as their reason for concern, a valid one indeed. Sammi writes:
I also personally noticed a shift in gender representation throughout my time in school. In middle school, all students, both male and female, took the same math classes at the same levels. But in high school, I watched female friends drop out and switch to easier classes. These women are equally as intelligent as their male peers, but are not encouraged to pursue harder math courses, just like women are rarely encouraged to pursue positions like moderator of a presidential debate.
As I advanced into higher leveled classes, I saw less and less female representation. On my high school math league team, there were only three female students out of fifteen, and this year there were no women representing her trigonometry and calculus class. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Women need role models that participate in advanced academics, and need to be encouraged to achieve amazing things.
As Sally Ride‘s recent death has reminded us, visibility is extremely powerful when getting more girls in STEM fields and in other spheres of influence. John Schwartz, who signed the petition, put the benefits to having a female moderator succinctly:
…it’s a great way to encourage young women, your own daughters, to see themselves as co-equal partners in our country’s future.
But as long as President Barbie remains the most identifiable female face girls and boys associate with politics, we aren’t doing our daughters any favors.