By Brooklyn Wayland
From PTA to City Council, Breea Clark was always moving. She was actually walking behind a stroller with her Mom’s Club’s “Walk and Talk with the Mayor” when she befriended the Norman mayor at the time, Cindy Rosenthal.
Clark was gaining name recognition throughout the Norman community as she got more and more involved. One day, the then Norman Mayor, Lynne Miller, asked to get drinks with Clark after a City Council meeting.
It was then that Miller asked if Clark would consider running for mayor.
Women see leadership in other women. Clark knew this because she had surrounded herself with extremely confident and amazing women who saw it in her.
“I didn’t ever see myself in these positions until they did,” Clark said.
Now, the mayor of Norman herself, Clark and her husband push traditional gender roles so her children can see a strong female role model.
Clark said she is always caught off guard by sexism and gender bias in politics. She saw this when running for mayor as people criticised her for being a young mother, saying she was “too young and pretty to be the mayor.”
In July of 2019, former OU Football head coach Barry Switzer met mayor Clark. He then retweeted the photo of the two with the caption, “My mayor is prettier than yours, has OU law degree and drinks beer… Just saying!” The reality of many women in leadership positions is they are still just seen as a pretty face, rather than a leader with political accomplishments.
But she has always ascribed to the thought that women can be mothers and leaders.
“This is only the beginning,” Clark said. When asked what’s next, she said. “Maybe governor. That’s the rumor I am spreading now.”
While Clark is pushing traditional gender roles and storming into the world of politics, there is still a huge gap in gender representation.
In 1971 only 3 percent of the U.S. Congress was made up of women. Fast forward to 2019 and the U.S. Congress is made up of 23.7 percent women which, according to the most recent Census, is 27.1 percent below an equal representation of the population in the U.S.
What has truly changed since the first female to run for the presidency, Victoria Woodhull, was denied equality 1872? The answer is much and also next to nothing. There has been a significant increase in representation. On the other hand, we have yet to have a female president. Women are still vastly underrepresented in the political sphere.
According to Allyson Shortle, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma with a focus in political behavior and political psychology, as people have increasingly began talking about sexism in politics, there has been a lot of work on gender bias in political science.
Shortle released an academic article over sexism in the 2016 presidential elections.
In the report, “Results suggest that sexism can actually attract voters—including women—who believe that women are less competent than men in the political realm. These results should lead us to question whether voters are truly committed to the norm of equality. A significant portion of the electorate seems willing to embrace explicit sexism.”
In the 2016 presidential election, we witnessed a female candidate make it further than any has before in the race. Still, the glass ceiling women have struggled to shatter for so long only trembled.
“Certainly, misogyny played a role. And that just has to be admitted, and why and what the underlying reasons for that, is what I’m trying to figure out myself … I think in this election there was a very real struggle between what is viewed as change that is welcomed and exciting to so many Americans and change which is worrisome and threatening to so many others. You layer on the first woman president over that, and I think some people, women included, had big problems,” Clinton said in her first interview after the election at Women in the World Summit.
This bias which was so prevalent in the 2016 presidential elections is not a new phenomenon, and that explains the lack of female representation in political settings.
“Shouldn’t you be home with your child?”
This is the reality of many women who decide to enter into the world of politics.
This has been the reality for Clark.
Clark has always been a go-getter. Raised by her paternal grandparents, Norman’s mayor remembers her grandfather jokingly asking her to stop being so involved.
She, however, did the opposite. Knowing this and education was her way out of her “interesting childhood,” Clark worked hard and always jumped at any opportunities that arose.
After an undergraduate degree in political science from Wichita State, she wanted more. “Legally Blonde” had just come out, and Clark decided law school just seemed like the right thing to do.
After being waitlisted at the University of Oklahoma School of Law, she called every day, building a relationship with the staff and never giving up.
Three years later, Clark had a new husband, a baby and a law degree as she went on to leap on the next opportunity that she encountered.
It is going to take a lot more women like Clark in the world to achieve equal representation. Women in politics is on the rise, and while there is still a long way to go, in the words of Breea Clark, “this is just the beginning.” Clark and many other women believe we will see a true representation soon.