Stephanie's Political Arena

Critiques and Perspectives on National Politics and More

From the Old Boys Club to the Old Girls Club

with 10 comments

Within various sectors of American society – government in particular – there still exists the notion that they are dominated by “the old boys club.”  For instance, according to the Women’s Campaign Forum , only 17 percent of Congress is made up of women.  Additionally, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that of those serving in state legislatures across the country, 23.4 percent are women.  And, the New York Times reports that 97 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 84 percent of corporate board memberships are held by men.

Proving themselves to their male counterparts and trying to compete with them can be a daunting task, which is why a number of women have banded together in an exclusive international group called Belizean Grove.  According to the New York Times, this secretive club was founded 12 years ago and its members include highly successful women in their 50s and 60s.  There is a Canadian senator, the former deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the head of global human resources for IKEA, a number of business executives, and directors of companies such as Xerox, Procter & Gamble, Nasdaq, and NYSE Euronext.

At their annual winter retreat, Belizean Grove members – “Grovers” – spend four days in seclusion in either Central or South America networking, mentoring one another, and discussing a variety of issues relating to politics and business, and how those issues impact their businesses.  During this time, members are “learning from each other, enriching our minds, developing true friendships.  There’s a real generosity of spirit,” according to Catherine Allen, a member and C.E.O. of the Santa Fe Group.  Additionally, she says, “We leave our egos and business cards at the door.”

Another important topic of discussion for some of these women is electing a woman President of the United States.  In an effort to achieve this goal one day, these women created The White House Project , an initiative intended to help recruit and develop women who will succeed in government and, ultimately, the White House.


Written by Stephanie

April 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm

10 Responses

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  1. How fascinating! The name Belizean Grove itself invites intrigue. I’m glad to see women creating their own gender-specific spaces for professional advancement.

    I have a friend whose worked with someone who is a male-to-female transexual, and she (the MTF) commented on how many doors were closed to her after she became a woman, simply because the men’s bathrooms and socials (or whatever they call them) and golfing groups and whatever else were now off limits.

    Amy Karon

    April 3, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s former co-worker as well.


      April 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

  2. Stephanie,
    Good set of stats at the beginning. The biggest obstacle that women face in getting elected is that in principle many people won’t vote for women–or will only do so as a last resort–and many of these voters are women. Men do not face a gender-based objection from either gender; women face it from many of both genders.

    Tom Mitchell

    April 3, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    • I appreciate your comments, Tom. However, I would have to disagree given the countries out there that either have been or currently are under the leadership of a woman at the national level. I think as long as voters view a woman as a qualified candidate and don’t feel that she’s making her gender part of her campaign platform, they will vote for her.


      April 10, 2011 at 11:31 pm

  3. The glass ceiling seems to be doomed, but still there. What would you attribute current inequities in the political and professional world to? I have heard theories that women will always be at a disadvantage professionally (on average) because of maternity leave. Also, are we still sliding on temporal scale of proffessional capital? I understand that more women than men receive their Master’s every year in the U.S., and the same will very soon be true for PhD’s (if it’s not the case already)
    Check out my article on the issue

    Joe Doolen

    April 6, 2011 at 4:41 am

    • Thanks for your comments, Joe! And feel free to check out my latest post as I mentioned you and your article. 🙂
      I would have to disagree with you on the maternity leave argument – not all women choose to have kids.
      I do recall seeing the stats you alluded to regarding how educated women are today compared to men (I think it was either in Time or Newsweek where I read those numbers). Yet, surprisingly, their educational achievement does not appear to coincide just yet with their professional achievements – particularly in business and politics… hmmmm…


      April 10, 2011 at 11:36 pm

  4. Thanks for raising this issue, Stephanie! I wonder how much certain “socialized” aspects of women’s behavior play a role in the scarcity of women in government and corporate leadership positions? I mean (and from what I understand), women have generally been socialized to be more cooperative and community-oriented than men, while men have been socialized to be more competitive. So, according to this perspective, it would make more sense why men still dominate such leadership positions, at least in a societal paradigm that that awards competition over cooperation. Anyway, any thoughts on this?

    Jenny S

    April 10, 2011 at 12:51 am

  5. we need more women politicians. I think women balance the political system. Although I disagree with “genderizing” politics, means to prefer gender over what should be done to create a better and more functional system for all. I think women have to direct their power toward more sustainable, more cultured society.
    overall, I love seeing more powerful women in politics. I liked reading your post.


    April 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    • Thanks so much, Saideh! I agree that it’s not a matter of “genderizing” politics at all – we can simply look at it as “taxation with equal representation.” I wouldn’t necessarily call 17 percent of Congress being comprised of women as fully representative of the female population in the U.S. A couple of my sources agreed on this point as well in my magazine piece. Thanks again!


      April 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  6. Thanks for your comments, Jenny! You raise a very interesting – and agreeable – point. I think that comes from the whole “caregiver” role they continuously inherit from one generation to the next. No matter how powerful women become, there’s still that inherent obligation to “give back to the community” and be more involved.
    On the other hand, I would argue that running for office qualifies as “giving back to the community.”


    April 10, 2011 at 11:43 pm

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