This past week I read two different stories about girls/women in leadership roles, one talking about why more girls don't go into the sciences: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/09/210251404/why-arent-more-girls-attracted-to-physics
and the other one talking about the culture of rape that is still prevalent in too many colleges, particularly military academies: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/opinion/bruni-tackling-the-roots-of-rape.html
The common thread in both these stories is that seeing women in leadership positions makes a big difference--for both young men and women--and for society as a whole. More specifically, it creates a culture in which women are viewed differently--they are seen as stronger, smarter, more confident, and more capable. The fact of women in leadership roles creates a different social climate, both consciously and unconsciously building relationships of equality and mutual respect; and, of course, these women offer young girls concrete, tangible role models to which they can aspire. Women in positions of power make something that can seem impossible possible, and in that way, they not only change the present but the future as well.
But let's be clear: the point is not to choose/hire/vote for a woman just because she has breasts and an "X" chromosome--the point is to choose/hire/vote for a woman because sometimes she's the best man for the job, period. But make no mistake--when that happens, it sends a wipe ripple of change through society that continues to be sorely needed; and to pretend we are somehow "beyond" that is to deceive ourselves and to rob a generation of young girls and boys who can still only dimly imagine the kind of world greater gender parity could create for them.
We've come a long way, but we have a long way yet to go--I'm glad the ELCA's new presiding bishop (Pastor Elizabeth Eaton, by the way) is one step on the journey.