We attended a fascinating presentation about women and public office. Here are some of the things we learned:
- There are about 520,000 elected or appointed offices in the U.S., including federal and state, executive, legislative and judicial. Women hold about 20% of these positions, but not across all tiers. Women have greater representation in the lower tiers. To obtain political parity 140,000 offices need to switch from male to female. At recent rates, political parity will take 150 years.
- The dearth of women in office is due to a lack of women candidates.
- This despite the fact that, except for very high office, women win as often as men--when they run. They just don't think they will win.
- Most women holding office are Democrats. To achieve a more palatable political atmosphere we need many more Republican women In office. However, party may also be declining as a factor. Young people--and this is now a next generation game--care about issues, not party.
- Women have not benefited, as a group, from the huge influx of cash into the electoral system after Citizens United.
- It is very cheap to run for certain state offices which can make major impacts on people's lives. Check out the districts where you live.
- Even if you don't want to be a politician forever, you will learn leadership, and leadership skills are transferable.
- You are likely also to learn to lose. Learning to be comfortable with losing will make you strong.
The good news: Everything has changed... maybe. The speaker hearkened back to an earlier Washington scandal, Abscam, in the late 70s early 80s. Many elected officials were forced to resign. Abscam was followed up by the Clarence Thomas hearings. Those hearings really pissed off a lot of women, and motivated them to run. They did, and they won.
Today, many men are leaving office. You know some of the reasons. Women are appalled by the behavior of certain men in high office, and in certain industries. And women now think they can win. They see lots of women getting engaged, marching on Washington and everywhere else, and they are starting to believe these women will vote for them. Emily's List, the largest PAC (beating in size both AARP and the NRA) usually helps 900-1,200 women, annually. This year—24,000.
So hold onto your hats, ladies, we are going for a ride. And it's going to be fun. Run, help others to run, and let's take hold of the future.