Last week, I helped to organize a panel at the New York City Bar Association entitled, Make History: Practical Discussions for Getting Politically Engaged.
The idea for this panel came after the presidential election last year when many women felt a call to action. We had a fabulous roster of speakers including, Erin Villardi, founder and director of VoteRunLead; Rina Shah, political strategist and media commentator; Cynthia Richie Terrell, founder and director of Representation20/20 and co-founder of FairVote; and Tremaine S. Wright, a New York State Assemblywoman serving the 56th District in Brooklyn, NY.
Each woman gave their perspective on the state of women in politics and offered practical ideas for ways in which we can become more involved in the political process. Here are some of the sad stats:
- Women make up 19% of the U.S. Congress
- Women hold 24% of state legislature seats
- There are only 4 women governors in the U.S.
- Women are 20% of mayors in the 100 largest cities and cities over 30,000 people
So what can we do about it? Of course, running for office is the ultimate way to make your voice heard. If you’re unsure of how to get started, organizations like VoteRunLead and She Should Run offer training sessions throughout the year to help prepare you for the process. Getting started can also be as easy as becoming involved in your neighborhood. Join the PTA. Attend a community board meeting. Become part of a neighborhood association. These are great ways to learn about the issues facing your community and get to know important players who can help you take the next steps.
If you don’t think running for office is for you, there are still ways you can get involved. Donating money is always helpful, but another way is to take a look at your network of friends and colleagues. Is there a woman who stands out? Someone whose ideas you like and who you think has the potential to be a great leader? If so, TELL HER! Encourage her to explore a possible candidacy. Help her raise money by fundraising on her behalf. Offer your home for a meet and greet. Connect her with people you think might be helpful to her.
Finally, if we want to see more women in office, we should also take a critical look at the institutional barriers that currently exist. For example, moving away from a “winner take all” system to ranked choice voting is one way to create a more open and less polarized electoral process that will result in more women and diverse candidates.
What are some of your ideas for getting women more involved in the political process?