Descriptive representation, also called symbolic representation, is a political term defined as the extent to which someone elected to office shares identities with the people they represent (Dittmar et al., 2018). This could mean a shared racial identity, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, or gender identity among other things. Focusing on gender identity, in the United States and across most of the world, politics is stereotypically thought of as a man’s occupation. Looking to the U.S. as one example, the gender imbalance in political offices reflects this idea. Descriptive representation is important because when women see themselves represented in positions they are constantly socialized to believe they have no place in, they begin to second guess the idea that women do not belong in those places and think maybe they too can pursue the path the woman they look up to pursued.
How does the idea of symbolic representation relate to business?
Just as women are underrepresented in politics, women are also underrepresented in high ranking managerial and CEO positions within businesses. So, once again, when women do not see themselves represented in top business positions, they do not see these positions as attainable for themselves. It is important for there to be more women in business to instill the idea that women do belong in managerial positions. Not only will societal ideas begin to shift as women in these roles prove they are just as good as men (if not better) at running organizations, but women of all ages will begin to shift their aspirations as they realize they too can be on top of a business and succeed.
At Aula Magna, women are connected to other women in business and management positions that, in addition to sharing their extensive knowledge coming from years of experience, serve as a reminder of how powerful and successful women can be.