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Madam President?

Inaugural National Mall
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
 

 

Today, we watch as Barack Obama is sworn into his second term as President of the United States. Four years ago, Obama made history as the first African American to win a major party nomination for the presidency and, ultimately, take the oath of office. But President Obama wasn’t the only candidate to make history in 2008. Hillary Clinton won more votes (18,000) and more delegates (1010) than any unsuccessful presidential primary candidate in history. She made history as only the second woman to have her name formally placed into nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention, and left the campaign amidst speculation that she would run again in 2012 or 2016. That speculation has hardly died down and, despite Clinton’s own claims that her candidacy is unlikely, the most recent polls show Clinton as the most popular contender for the 2016 contest. As we celebrate the history being made today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the women who have blazed a path toward the White House and the potential for a woman to take the oath of office in years to come. Two women became candidates for the presidency in the nineteenth century before they could even cast ballots themselves. Victoria Woodhull in 1872 and Belva Lockwood in 1884 were both nominated as presidential candidates by a group of reformers identifying themselves as the Equal Rights Party. As the first woman to practice law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Lockwood knew what it felt like to stand alone and did so again in her second presidential bid in 1888. It wasn’t until 1964, 76 years after Lockwood’s second bid, that Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine became the first female candidate to have her name placed in nomination for president at a major party convention, winning twenty-seven delegate votes from three states. Eight years later, in 1972, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York, the first African American woman elected to Congress, became the first woman and the first African American to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency at a Democratic National Convention, winning 151.95 delegate votes.

Women PresCandidates

Between 1987 and 2003, three women – Democrat Pat Schroeder (1987), Republican Elizabeth Dole (1999), and Democrat Carol Moseley Braun (2003) - put their names forward as presidential contenders, but all stepped off the trail before the first primary votes were cast. In 2012, Republican Michele Bachmann left the campaign trail 24 hours after placing sixth in the first Republican primary. In 2007, Ruth B. Mandel described the legacy of the women who ran for presidency in this way:

They made a claim on public awareness by attaching voices and living images of accomplished woman leaders to the idea that one day a woman could conceivably be president. Their actions made the idea less outrageous to conceive.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton echoed this sentiment as she conceded the Democratic primary, telling the crowd,

You can be so proud, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable.

Speculation has already begun about who will run, and who can win, the presidency in 2016. Some women, most notably Hillary Clinton, are among the names being floated as serious contenders. Still, the presidency remains arguably the most masculine office in the land – presenting obstacles well-understood by the women who have run. As she fought to allow women to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over a century ago, Belva Lockwood said, “The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents.” While women have (slowly) worked to establish a precedent of women running for major party presidential nominations, our generation has yet to set a precedent of a female commander-in-chief. So as we celebrate the political history made today, let us consider the political history women have left to make.  

What role will women play in the legislative debate over gun control?

Earlier this week, a colleague was speaking to a community group about women in the 2012 elections and CAWP’s work to increase women’s political representation. The first question she was asked, in light of the tragedy that struck Newtown, Connecticut just days earlier, was what role women in office would play in the ensuing legislative debate over gun control. Where do the current female members of Congress stand on gun issues? And does the increased number of women in office make it more (or less) likely that anti-gun measures will pass? There are no concrete answers to these questions, as “gun control” encompasses myriad types of reforms and the women in congress do not represent a unified bloc on this or any issue.  But looking to history might be helpful to formulating hypotheses about what role women might play if gun control is, in fact, put on the legislative agenda. In 1994, Congress passed a ten-year assault weapons ban (AWB) under a title of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (HR 3355) by a vote of 235 to 195. At the time, there were 54 women in Congress – just 10% representation. Despite these numbers, women played a prominent role in the 1994 ban. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was the architect and chief sponsor of the AWB and worked tirelessly to get enough votes to attach it to the Senate version of the crime bill. In the House, women were disproportionately represented among the members whipping the vote to be sure that the bill included the ban. House Vote HR 3355

When it came to a vote, 83% of the women in the House, and all but one woman in the Senate, voted in favor of the assault weapons ban; men were more evenly split, with 50% of men in the House and 59% of men in the Senate voting for the ban. Partisanship plays an important role in votes on this issue, but women in both parties were more likely to vote for the ban than were their maleSenate Vote HR3355 counterparts (see charts). Much has changed since 1994. Women have nearly doubled their representation in Congress – when the 113th Congress begins on January 3rd, women will take 18% (or 98) of the House and Senate seats. With that increase comes greater regional, racial, and ideological diversity among the women who serve. Probably most different is the increased conservatism among the Republican women who now serve, which may make it harder than it was 18 years ago to find bipartisan support for new restrictions on gun ownership. Because there have been so few gun control votes in recent years, one of the only indicators we have of potential support for such legislation is  National Rifle Association (NRA) ratings. Based on grades given to members of the 113th Congress, women represent a disproportionate percentage of the House (34%) and Senate (37%) members labeled as anti-gun by the NRA. However, the NRA grades all 20 Republican women in the House and 3 of 4 female Republican senators as strongly pro-gun; one female House Democrat and one Democratic woman in the Senate are also given “A” grades by the gun lobby. The context (post-Newtown) and content (e.g. only targeting assault weapons) of any pending legislative debate matters and may yield votes that do not mirror these particular ratings, but only time will tell. What we do know for now is that Senator Feinstein has vowed to re-introduce an updated assault weapons ban when the congressional session opens in January and, if history is any guide, will fight furiously to garner support in both chambers. Some pro-gun members have already said they would be open to restrictions on military-grade weapons, and House Democrat Carolyn McCarthy (NY), a long-time anti-gun advocate, has vowed she will give “full force” to reform efforts and will “embarrass” President Obama if he does not stay true to his promise of policy change. It’s no surprise that these two women will be leading the charge to respond to recent gun tragedies. Both women know intimately the horrors of gun violence and have used personal tragedies to fuel policy priorities. Moreover, they represent constituencies beyond their geographic borders, speaking on behalf of women in the electorate who – based on yesterday’s Pew Poll - are significantly more likely than men to prioritize gun control over gun rights. It will take both men and women at all levels to change our nation’s policies around guns, and having more women in Congress does not guarantee movement in either direction – holding firm on rights or putting more restrictions in place. But, women – as politicians, advocates, and citizens - will be essential players in this national debate.

What’s the hold-up? Women’s Delayed Entry into Political Office

Just one week after 19 new women were elected to the United States House of Representatives, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference with the current caucus of Democratic women members to announce that she would once again put her name forward for the Democrat’s top spot in the House. Raising some eyebrows and eliciting heckles from the cadre of women on the stage, journalist Luke Russert suggested that her decision to stay on posed obstacles to leadership for younger members. After noting that the same question is never asked of men in leadership, the 72 year-old mother of five and grandmother of eight pointed to the gendered dimension of members’ ages:

"I knew that my male colleagues...had a jump on me because they didn't have children to stay home [with]. …You got to take off about 14 years from me because I was home raising a family."

Pelosi’s comments raise important questions to consider for today’s class of women officeholders. As has been historically true, do women enter office at later ages than their male counterparts? Are they more likely to wait until their children are older to run and serve? And, finally, what does this mean for increasing women’s representation? Let’s take a look at the newly sworn-in 113th House of Representatives. The average age of all members is about 56 years old, but the key statistic of interest for these questions is the average age at which members took office. In the 113th, the average age of taking office is just over 47 years old, but there is a significant difference between male and female members: women’s average age of entering the House is 50.2 years old and men average 46.7 years old upon taking their congressional oath of office. While not the 14-year expanse cited by Pelosi, this data demonstrates that women continue to enter office – in this case, congressional office – later than their male colleagues, which has implications for institutional seniority and leadership posts. When we include all members into these calculations, some of the most gender-significant age divides – those tied to childbearing and childrearing – may be disguised. Another cut at the congressional membership shows that about 19% of female members in the 113th took office at age 40 or under, compared to 25% of male members. Of the 83 freshman members (64 male, 19 female), 32 men and only 1 woman currently have children under age 18. Put more clearly, half of the new male members come to Washington, DC while their children are still at home and all but one of the new female members either have no children or have adult children. In survey responses, female state legislators are significantly more likely than their male colleagues to say that their decision to run for office was influenced by their children being “old enough.” Not only does this finding have implications for women who start their political career in the state legislatures before heading to Congress, but it also echoes Leader Pelosi’s sentiment regarding the unique responsibilities and considerations that women confront in making the decision to enter public office. Children and families are not the sole source of delay for women. Women’s motivations for office are more likely to emerge from issue involvement over time rather than a long-time desire to hold office, which is more common among men. Moreover, women continue to need greater encouragement to run for office, and often feel the need to gather greater experience and/or training than their male peers. Regardless of the cause for delay, women’s later entry into office at both the state legislative and congressional levels can have real implications for women’s institutional power, political advancement, and ambition and/or ability to seek higher office. At her November press conference, Leader Pelosi expressed hope for the next generation of women leaders, saying, “I want women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to count much sooner.” To meet that desire, more will need to be done to both encourage and enable young women to run for office. A nudge from the first female Speaker of the House is probably not a bad place to start.

The Life of the Party? Women’s Representation in Congressional Party Caucuses

Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of 150 Republican women participating in the annual meeting of the National Coalition of Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series (EIPSS). The EIPSS is one of the few national programs aimed at encouraging and preparing Republican women to run for office in multiple states. In preparation for my talk, I worked with CAWP data to examine gender differences in representation within both the Republican and Democratic parties. One of the most striking visuals that emerged was the chart below, showing women’s representation within their parties’ congressional caucuses since 1917. Women as Percentage of Party Caucuses 1917 to 2013As this line graph shows, Democratic women have seen a steady increase as a proportion of all Democratic members of the House and the Senate over time, with the steepest increases coming in the past two decades. This trend does not hold for Republican women, who have seen relative stagnation in their proportional representation to Republican men in the last ten years, and who hold fewer than 10% of Republican seats in the House or the Senate today. Democratic women, however, broke the 30% mark in both the House and Senate this year. While not reported here, this partisan difference is also evident at the state legislative level, where Democratic women hold 33% of all Democratically-held state legislative seats nationwide, while Republican women hold just 17% of all Republican seats. These statistics – and this visual – raise a number of questions: What’s holding women back within the Republican Party? What explains the relatively steep rise in women’s representation within the Democratic Party, at least at the federal level, since 1992? And, finally, how does this translate – if at all –  into legislative priorities, processes, and party relations? At CAWP, our research on women’s routes to office provides some insights into the different realities faced by Democratic and Republican women candidates. We find, for example, that Democratic women are more likely than Republican women to cite the support of women’s organizations as helpful to their electoral bids; with fewer such organizations to assist them, Republican women must rely on party support. And, with a Republican electorate that is majority male, perhaps the Republican Party leadership feels less pressure to recruit women candidates. Still, we know that reaching political parity between men and women won’t happen without women running and winning in both parties. If we want to reach 50%, we’re going to have to do better than holding 10% - or even 30% - of seats within the country’s major political parties.

Chronicles of a Leader: Student shares insights from NEW Leadership MS 2013

DSC_0566 2Rachael Luckett (University of Southern Mississippi) was a participant in this year’s inaugural NEW Leadership Mississippi program, held from May 20-25 at the Mississippi University for Women. Rachael chronicled her experiences, reactions, and memories from the program on her blog, luckettmenow.wordpress.com. Highlights from her blog entries are posted here, but please take a few minutes to check out all of her posts (and wisdom!). Be prepared to be impressed and inspired by our partner program and our new alumna! ****************************************************************************************************************** Day 1 and 2 of “NEW” Thirty-three women who attend college in MS assembled for our first introduction, and starting at that first hour I have been very excited and honored to be a part of the inaugural class of the NEW Leadership Program Mississippi. …. Just to sum it up: It’s not easy, breezy, or beautiful; girls need to break the barriers that we think exist and cover the country with our ideas, perspectives, and dedication. …. We have had several speakers over the past few days and these are merely a few things I’ve taken away from them:
  •  “Challenge yourselves.” - Kate Brown, Director of Center for Creative Learning at the Mississippi University for Women
  •  “You are the next generation of leaders.” – Heather McTeer Toney, former Mayor of Greenville, MS and Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Excellence at Mississippi Valley State University
  •  “Self-awareness is always included in the definition of leadership.” – Carole Leland, International Leadership Consultant
  •  “Don’t let yourself think you can’t do something; let your heart tell you what you can do.” – Heather McTeer Toney, former Mayor of Greenville, MS and Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Excellence at Mississippi Valley State University
  • “Remember three words: be, know, and do. Be who you are. Know who you are and what you stand for. Take action.” - Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “Respect does not come with the job title; you have to earn it.” - Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know you care” - John Maxwell
  • “Be willing to extend a helping hand even if they will advance beyond you.” – Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “You can’t get to second base if you have a foot still on first.” – Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong.”
  • If someone tells you “Good Job”, make them tell you why so you will know what to continue or repeat.
  • You may need others’ help to achieve your goals, but don’t forget that others may need your help to succeed too.
  • The road to success is always under construction.
  • Team sports participation is important because it teaches you that you’ll lose sometimes, but you have to move on and try again.
  • God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.
Day 3 of “NEW” My goals of this program are really to bring my leadership skills back and plug them into the leadership positions that I will be holding next semester, which includes my second semester as Director of Social Awareness in Delta Gamma as well as my new position as Vice President of the Southern Miss Activities Council (SMAC). I’m pumped to share all these leadership skills with my respective organizations and see how much we can grow this year! …. Slide1We crammed into a classroom to watch the documentary “Miss Representation” (2011) which focused on the portrayal of women by mainstream media. The focus on women was not on their causes, their intellect, or their successes; it was on their appearance. Many examples were used to show how, no matter when a woman in public service was mentioned, the focus always shifted to their beauty and sexual portrayal. I was shocked quite a few times throughout the film, and honestly… it made me want to be a feminist! Our priority should be to empower women and girls and not send mixed feelings about women portraying non-traditional roles. If you have not seen the film, I highly suggest that you see it. It brings to light so many issues that we see as common day activity, but truthfully no woman in any position should have to tolerate it. …. More advice or quotes of the day:
  • “If someone ever tells you something can’t be done, what they’re really telling you is ‘I don’t know how to do it’.” – Neely Carlton, former Mississippi state senator
  • “Never ever ever burn a bridge.” - Sherry Vance, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens, and Cannada, PLLC
  • “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker
  • Challenge people if they say derogatory things about women.
  • More people should challenge the world and our traditions.
  • Your goal should be to be so good at what you do that others can’t ignore you.
Day 4 of “NEW” When we arrived in downtown Jackson, it was just the same as I remembered it. Busy streets. Beautiful architecture. Church bells ringing. And thank goodness for the clear blue skies. … DSC_0507 2We met Governor Phil Bryant and took a quick photo with him. We also met Cindy Hyde Smith, the Commissioner of Agriculture, who gave us great insight into her position when she addressed us later. … Well after three hours of driving away from the sunset, we made it back to the W safe and sound (no need to worry, mother). We ate greasy pizza for once this week inside the adorable Puckett House, and I must say… it has been such a phenomenal week. I know we still have half of a day left tomorrow, but when we were eating I couldn’t help but notice how sociable everyone was. From the loud or funny or deep conversations that were taking place, we all seemed like we had known each other much longer than just four days. Before I get sentimental too soon, I want to give you my daily advice/quotes:
  • “Women can do what they want; they are made of an indescribable fiber.” – MS Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde Smith
  •  “If you want a job talked about, get a man. If you want a job done, get a woman.” – Liz Welch, Secretary of the Mississippi State Senate
  • “Don’t tell someone no. Just accept the opportunity and become an expert in it.” – Ashley Buckman, Jones/Walker
  • Capitalize on the opportunities you are given. They may look small in front of you, but they are huge behind you.
  • You can’t put a dollar amount on experience.
  • Develop relationships with the people you work with and also those involved with the position you want.
  • You can’t be all things to all people. (Amen.)
  • Be flexible. Nothing is going to go as planned. Don’t over plan your life. Let life come to you.
  • Remember that a small change you make will make a large difference down the line. (Hello, butterfly effect.)
  • Never compromise your integrity.
  • Keep people’s confidences.
  • Always give back. (Hmmm this sounds familiar… http://luckettmenow.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/always-come-back/)
  • Always take chances to expand your knowledge.
Final Day of “NEW” All week our group has worked diligently to prepare ourselves to present in front of our “legislative panel”. When each group presented, I could tell how hard everyone had worked to make this day the best that we could. The legislative panel asked Senator Dotya few tough questions, but no one ever froze or became nervous. We worked on our toes and gave our best answers according to what we had learned, and at the end of the day that’s enough for me. There are a lot of times in your life when you should take the time to debrief. So that’s what we did. Some key points were:
  • Keep your main themes to remind the people why you are there.
  • Show your passion.
  • If you say you don’t like/agree with something, make sure to offer a solution or alternative.
  • Work together.
  • Do your homework.
  • Be focused and less vague when speaking on a point.
  • Uplift and support your colleagues during the presentation and behind the scenes.
  • Be aware of who you are around. Be formal especially when addressing those who have worked hard for the title they hold.
… Before the program began I stuck to my belief that I would never run for any government office. I want to thank Carole because she was determined that I would Slide2change my initial thoughts about running for office by the end of the program. I’m not saying that I’m running for President (ever), but I’m definitely not as closed off to the idea of working with government officials in the future. Thanks for not giving up on my stubborn self. In her closing remarks, she also reminded us that we matter to her, and she knows how much we are going to matter to many others in the near future. …. I have been given an incredible amount of advice about leadership this week, which I plan on transferring to my positions that I hold at school. It has also given me even more reassurance as I take my job as a leadership facilitator at the Mississippi Governor's School next month. This experience was priceless, and I feel like my recent posts tell it all. Even though today was the final day of Mississippi’s first NEW Leadership program, it will not be the last for many people. I know we will keep connected with the new relationships we have made this week and will find ways to continue to learn from each other. I also have so much hope in the future of this program at MUW. This program has proven to be an amazing and beneficial opportunity for college women across the state, and I know it will become even more successful year after year. This is not the end. It is a new beginning. ***************************************************************************************************************** For more photos and updates from this year's NEW Leadership MS program, visit the program's Facebook page, and for more information about all of CAWP's NEW Leadership programs, visit www.cawp.rutgers.edu/education_training/NEWLeadership/.  

News from New Jersey: Two Women Top Democratic Ticket for Governor in 2013

silvabuono (Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger)

Yesterday, State Senator Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey,  named union executive Milly Silva as her running mate. New Jersey is now only the third state ever to field a two-woman major party ticket in the general election for a state’s top elective posts, following examples set by Democrats in Illinois in 1994 and Republicans in Kentucky in 1999. Silva, 42,  is vice president of SEIU 1199, which represents health care workers in the Garden State. A Latina, she is also the first person of color to run for the number two position in New Jersey, which has existed only since 2009. (Since the position was created, no man has been chosen as a major-party candidate for lieutenant governor of New Jersey.)
110309christiewins2 (Tyson Trish / NorthJersey.com)

Governor Chris Christie also has a female running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, formerly sheriff of Monmouth County. “Whatever the outcome of this race, it’s further evidence that New Jersey women are making their mark in politics,” observed Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).  “Less than a decade ago, we were among the ten worst states for electing women to state legislatures; now we’re 11th in the nation. While we still have work to do – particularly at the congressional level, where we have no women in our 14-member House and Senate delegation – we’re headed in the right direction, with many strong political women who want their voices heard.” The first two-woman ticket ran in Illinois in 1994, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch chose State Senator Penny Severns as her running mate.  The second two-woman ticket included 1999 gubernatorial candidate Peppy Martin, a public relations executive, and Taylor County school board member Wanda Cornelius, both Kentucky Republicans. Both all-female tickets lost their races. Since 1940, a total of 35 women (20D, 15R)  have served as governors in 26 states, and 78 women (41D, 35R, 1 A Connecticut Party, 1 Reform Party) have served as lieutenant governors in 37 states. Forty-three states have lieutenant governors; in other states, another official, typically the Secretary of State or Senate president,  is next in line to succeed the governor, whether permanently or in an acting capacity. In 25 states, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor share a ticket; in 18 states, candidates run independently for the two positions. New Jersey has had one woman governor to date, Christine Todd Whitman (R), who served from 1994-2001, when she resigned to become administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Before Senator Buono, Whitman was the only female major party nominee for governor of New Jersey. Other women have sought their parties’ nominations unsuccessfully, starting with Democrat Ann Klein in 1973 and including Democrat Barbara McConnell in 1981. In Virginia, the only other state holding statewide elections in 2013, there are no women running for statewide office in either party.

Could women lead in the Northeast?

northeastYesterday’s primaries highlighted the success of women as gubernatorial nominees in three northeastern states: Massachusetts (Martha Coakley), New Hampshire (Maggie Hassan), and Rhode Island (Gina Raimondo). While Governor Hassan was elected two years ago, the potential election of Coakley and Raimondo in November would add two new women governors to a region where Hassan is currently the sole female at the helm. Both women also have the potential to make history; Gina Raimondo would be the first woman governor in Rhode Island and Martha Coakley would be the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts, where Jane Swift was elected lieutenant governor and became governor from 2001 to 2003 after the incumbent governor resigned (see CAWP's fact sheet on the history of women governors). If all three women are elected in November, women will serve as governors in one-third of northeastern states, and two-thirds of all northeastern states can say they have had women governors. Finally, based on election forecasts, it’s possible that nearly half of the women elected governor this year will be from the Northeast (see CAWP's Election Watch 2014).  These facts cut both ways; there is potential for a record number of women governors serving simultaneously from the region, but with 36 gubernatorial seats up this year and only nine women earning nominations, we’re unlikely to break any nationwide records for women serving as top state executives. Even more, three northeastern states have still never elected women governors (ME, NY, and PA). Primary results from yesterday’s contests in MA, NH, NY, and RI also yielded some strong numbers for women down ballot. In Massachusetts, this fall’s ballot will include female major party nominees for five of the state’s six statewide elected executive posts. In Rhode Island, three of five statewide elected executive elections will include female major party nominees. And while Governor Hassan holds and will run for re-election to the state’s only elected executive post, she will be joined on the ballot by women candidates for each congressional race (including a woman-versus-woman race in CD 2), with the potential to uphold New Hampshire’s history-making status as the only state with an all-female congressional delegation and woman governor. Connecticut, which held its primary last month, nominated women to run for four of six statewide elected executive posts, with two women competing against each other to be lieutenant governor. In New York, however, lieutenant governor nominee Kathy Hochul is the only woman in a general election bid for statewide elected executive office this year. Other northeastern states will be similarly low on women in statewide elected executive offices next year, with no women competing for posts in PA (where Allyson Schwartz and Kathleen McGinty were defeated in the primary race for governor) or ME (where governor is the only statewide elected post). Incumbent State Treasurer Beth Pearce will seek re-election to one of Vermont’s six statewide elected executive offices, and, with no female congressional candidates this year, that state will continue to be one of only four states that has never sent a woman to Congress. New Jersey, where a woman holds one of two statewide elected posts, is the only northeastern state not holding statewide executive elections this year. Recent analyses have questioned whether there are glass ceilings for women in the Northeast, especially in statehouses, and yesterday’s results do not provide any definitive proof that those ceilings have been or will be broken. However, they evidence some noteworthy progress and potential for making history this year, and a promise of more stories to tell after November 4th.

Numbers Matter: Black Women in American Politics

This week, the Center for American Women and Politics and Higher Heights released The Status of Black Women in American Politics, a report that takes a snapshot of Black women’s current political representation and participation and reflects back on the historical advancement of Black women as voters, candidates, and elected and appointed officials. This report identifies and outlines the problem of Black women’s underrepresentation and serves as a call to action for citizens, advocates, potential candidates, and those in political power. I wrote this report over multiple HHAReportCover(1)months, poring through CAWP’s databases of women candidates and elected officials and gathering new data on Black women and men in politics to provide the most comprehensive possible analysis. . Throughout these months, I – a scholar of women and politics accustomed to the significant gender disparities in political power – was continually surprised by the dearth of Black women in elected office at all levels and throughout our states and cities. I was shocked when I realized that Black women have represented fewer than 30 different congressional districts in only 13 states in all of U.S. history and disturbed that I could count the number of Black women who have ever served in statewide elected executive offices on two hands. I was even more taken aback upon noting that 77% of the Black women who have served in Congress and 9 of the 10 Black women who have been elected to statewide executive offices have entered office since 1993. While these data make evident the delay in Black women’s political advancement, this recent history of representational growth demonstrates enormous opportunities for continued progress and power. To ensure that progress, organizations like Higher Heights are working to build a stronger infrastructure of support for Black women candidates and urging Black women to harness their power at the ballot box --  not only to amplify their own political voices, but also to support (and become) the much-needed Black women officeholders. The research proves that advancing Black women’s representation is not only a matter of democratic fairness, but influences policy agendas and debates, as well as the political engagement of underrepresented constituencies. There is much more work to do to in harnessing Black women’s political power, but this report provides an important foundation upon which to foster dialogue and identify opportunities for growth. Why? Because numbers matter. Numbers validate perceptions of inequality. Numbers illuminate the sites for and extent of those disparities. Numbers demonstrate how much work we have left to do. Finally, numbers are power in making the case for change. Take a few minutes to arm yourself with the numbers that resonate most for you from our report. Then please share them with your networks to help us continue the conversation that we began Thursday on harnessing the political power of Black women. On social media, use the hashtag #BlackWomenLead.  

A Women’s Political Committee Celebrates 25 Years

The following is a guest blog is the final post in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan highlights the important work done by the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. This piece spotlights the type of work that is integral to advancing women's political power and influence, the focus of part 1 and part 2 of this series. By Susan Rose The years 2012 and 2013 were times for celebrations and political victories for the feminist movement. Ms magazine celebrated its 40th year of publication and  Jan. 22, 2013 was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established the fundamental right to abortion. On the central coast of California, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (SBWPC) celebrated its 25th anniversary and years of political victories. This PAC began in the late 1980’s, when a small group of women in Santa Barbara met for several months to discuss the lack of women in public office.  Over time, the group expanded and included a list of who’s who among female activists in the community.  (In full disclosure, the author was also a founding mother.) SBWPC asked the question, "can women have a significant impact at the local level?" Reflecting on 25 years of political activities, the answer was an unqualified yes.  Using an activist model, these feminists created a pipeline to elective office and demonstrated that change can occur on the local level. The SBWPC was born in January of 1988 with a  reception that brought out 250 women and men.  Betty Friedan was the keynote speaker. They quickly built a membership base that today includes both women and men.The time was right to organize! From the beginning, the SBWPC defined itself as a feminist organization.  Its mission states: “The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is dedicated to furthering gender equality and other feminist values through political and social action, and educational activities.  As a political action committee, we endorse the candidacies of women and men who actively support our goals and promote a feminist agenda.” During these last 25 years, the SBWPC has pursued the goal of gender equality and social change by electing women to public office. In 1988, the SBWPC endorsed the candidacies of  Dianne Owens and Gloria Ochoa, the first women to serve on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.  The smell of victory was sweet and led to more women entering the political realm to run for office. Since SBWPC’s founding, women have comprised as much as 80% of the County Board of Supervisors, served as mayors and District Attorney, and held seats in both houses of the state legislature. They also hold many positions on school boards and local commissions.  Not to mention, since 1999 Santa Barbara County has been represented by a woman in Congress. During its 25 years, the SBWPC has endorsed and contributed financial support to 95 candidates.  A total of fifty-six of those were women (59%).  Only four of the women lost. All candidates supported the feminist agenda. The SBWPC’s success is best demonstrated by its impact on public policy. Legislation and programs introduced by women elected to office in Santa Barbara has covered a broad range of issues including breast cancer, children, domestic violence, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, homelessness, human services, living wage, rape kits and reproductive rights. In its early days, the SBWPC board of directors created a set of tools that enabled them to elect feminist women to office.  These tools included: position papers, recruitment strategies, campaign skills workshops, candidate assessment teams, endorsements, state and federal PAC money, and media support. The position papers formed the basis for the organization’s feminist agenda and the criteria by which candidates received endorsements.  The  issues covered in the papers range from childcare to the ERA to immigration and reproductive rights.These tools are still in place today and guide the board in their process of endorsing candidates. Many of the first candidates to be endorsed by the PAC were founding board members, creating an early pipeline to elected office. In the current political climate, there is not only unfinished business for the feminist agenda but an imperative need to secure the gains that have been made.  To do that, more women must run for national office starting with local and statewide candidacies. Today, the SBWPC has a standing pipeline committee that focuses on recruiting women for future elections.  This committee is key to the continuing success of the organization.  Due to term limits in many local and state offices, more women need to be ready to run when vacancies occur.  As part of their function, this committee actively reaches out to prospective candidates. While other feminist organizations have declined or disbanded, the SBWPC has been able to sustain itself over 25 years because of a diverse board of women and a membership committed to addressing issues that are current and compelling. With the help of the 24 women on the board of directors, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee has created a culture where women in public office are the norm not the exception. These women have achieved political and electoral success by grass roots organizing, marching, mentoring, advocating and campaigning both through community activism and social media.  They are dedicated and committed to making a difference in the lives of women. The organizational model developed by the SBWPC has been tried and tested locally over the years and can be replicated in other communities. “All politics are local” said former speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill.  He was right.

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