4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media

In early 2021, the website Insider presented a list of the Most Famous Female Politician from Every State. Some were nationally known figures like Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi from California or former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton who was born in Illinois. Others were historical figures, such as Jeannette Rankin from Montana who was the first woman elected to Congress, or modern-day trailblazers, including Sarah McBride, Delaware's first openly transgender state senator, and Kristi Noem, South Dakota's first woman governor.

Nancy_Pelosi Nancy Pelosi by US Department of Labor | Public Domain

Media coverage of women in political roles can vary greatly. Some women are in the news all the time; others are hardly ever mentioned. Those who appear regularly are often presented differently depending on the political lean of different media outlets. Social scientists have shown that the media cover women and men political leaders differently. Stories about women in politics more often mention their appearance, clothing, family, and instances of combative behavior, all in line with traditional gender stereotypes. Such gender bias hinders women and helps male leaders politically.

Thinking about your own media experience...have you seen women represented in leadership positions (e.g., Mulan and Elsa from Disney; World leaders such as Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern; Individuals thrust into the spotlight such as Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, Meghan Markle)? Do you think it is important for women to be represented in leadership roles in the media?

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In these activities, you will examine how women political leaders are represented in the media, both in the United States and in different countries around the world.

Activity 1: Examine the Representation of Women Political Leaders in the Media

Activity 2: Evaluate the Media Portrayal of Women Leaders in Different Countries and Careers

Additional Resources

Connecting to the eBook

Building Democracy for All: Women's Political Participation Around the World

Connecting to the Standards