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Double standards continue to plague women leaders

They defied the odds. They became role models for future generations, the living proof that historical hard work paid off. However, women in positions of power must constantly prove their worth and character to extents that men do not have to. Even world leaders like Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Vice President Kamala Harris are no exceptions. 

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was the world’s youngest prime minister in 2019 at 34. Now 36, Marin has recently come under fire for leaked videos showing her partying with friends. Citizens and her political colleagues questioned Marin’s ability to govern. Prime Minister Marin promptly announced she had passed a drug test to quell the backlash. However, the calls for resignation were still highly favored. Her male political counterpart, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, received cheers for downing a beer at a concert in Sydney. The response towards PM Marin blatantly shows the toxic double standard placed on women.

Freshly appointed British Prime Minister Liz Truss, became the third woman prime minister of the UK on September 6.  In the short time her name has been at center stage, Truss has found herself often compared to her first woman predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile, numerous recent headlines boast about the similarities between Prime Minister Liz Truss and Margaret Thatcher. When Truss first began climbing her party’s ranks, accusations of staging photos that Thatcher had taken as a Prime Minister started to surface. Posing with a tank and wearing a similar outfit to Thatcher was enough to deem Truss a copycat seeking attention. Once Truss became the British PM, news stories changed to wondering if she would follow Thatcher’s leadership style and ideals.

In five years, the UK has had three prime ministers. However, the men remain unscathed by these unfair comparisons. 

Though some could argue that Marin’s and Truss’s cases are a matter of cultural difference, the glass ceiling clearly remains over Vice President Harris. As the first woman vice president of the United States, all eyes patrol Harris’s every move. Harris has been notorious for losing staff members on her team, and rumors have circulated about an unhealthy work environment. She was also notably absent from the public eye early during Biden’s presidency, causing some to call her an ‘absentee’ vice president.

Joe Concha, a columnist for The Hill, hypothesized that Harris “checked off a few demographic boxes” and suggests her lack of experience and polarizing nature are reasons for her absence. He compares her media absence to former Vice President Mike Pence, who “held dozens of press conferences” for the COVID-19 task force and was “taking tough questions on an almost daily basis.”

Staffers have left their positions under Vice President Harris. However, the extent the media has analyzed each departure of her staff seems to have skyrocketed compared to when staffers left men in office.  It also seems highly unlikely that if Harris was a man, they would be labeled as ‘absent’ from work or accused of hiding. Instead, not much would likely be said.

One news outlet posted a photo of Harris with the caption, “Since Harris took office, she has yet to hold even one formal press conference. Not one,” before providing a link to The Hill’s article analyzing the vice president’s lack of publicity. However, presidents and their administrations avoiding the press is not an uncommon occurrence. President Reagan often kept the press at arm’s length and attempted to limit press conferences. Harris is not the first elected official to have had time away from the spotlight and will not be the last, but she seems to be taking the most heat for it.

The ultimate issue is that women in positions of power seemingly need to be held to a higher standard than their male counterparts to prove their worth. Prime Minister Marin must remain stoic and calm in order to be able to lead Finland properly. Prime Minister Truss must be able to match Margaret Thatcher in strength and legacy without appearing to plagiarize. Vice President Harris is the first woman in her position, so she must be President Biden’s puppet, waiting to be used. 

Criticism is essential for any leader to become better. Nonetheless, there comes the point when critiques are purely sexist and misplaced, causing the women to be rebuked more than men and having to be twice as careful not to break any eggshells.  

The time to stop hyper-focusing on women in power and everything unrelated to their leadership is now. We can start with UMBC’s own President, Valerie Sheares Ashby. Dr. Hrabowski led UMBC for over 30 years and was an example of leadership, respect, and discipline. Now that he has retired and looks to President Sheares Ashby, it is essential to remember that she represents a new era, the future for UMBC. Women leaders are the future and should not fall into the hands of vicious double standards.