And still on the National Women in Politics Conference, another important element is understanding why more women aren't in political positions. Guest speaker Professor Kelly Dittmar discussed the social and cultural structures that work against women.
Kelly Dittmar, Professor of Political Science
"Political institutions were built by and for men. I think our speaker earlier talked about when women couldn't vote right. When women are formally excluded from any political process the norm is that they shouldn't be there. And so the cultural change and the structural change that we have to go through to make it normal for women to participate becomes harder."
"In the US congress one of the clear examples of this is that there was no women's restroom in the US congress adjacent to the floor of the house until 2006. Our first women in congress entered in 1917. So it took almost 100 years for there to be facilities for the women who were serving. Why? Because when they built that actual brick and mortar institution they didn't think women would be there that is the most symbolic example but you all can probably think of other structures, rules, processes, uniforms that are created with only men in mind. Politics as an institution has been like that not only in the US but here in Belize. Also stereotypical expectations right? So this is the cultural stuff what do we think about, what do we see when we think of elected leaders or candidates or politicians, what comes to your mind when I say the word politician? Is that the image of a man or a woman? Too often it is the image of a man."
Adrienne Galanek, Charge D'affaires, US Embassy
"We need to move beyond the idea that girls can be leaders and create the expectation that girls should be leaders."
"Many people around the world say the same thing about politics, that politics is dirty and they don't want to be involved. My mentors and I echo Mahatma Gandhi's words "Be the change that you want to see in this world."
The commission hopes to make this conference an annual event.