Leadership in Action: NEW LeadershipTM Alum Raises Consciousness about Women in Politics

The following blog is a guest post from Felise Ortiz, a senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, double majoring in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Spanish. She is an alumna of the NEW Leadership NJ Class of 2011. Felise is the Founder and President of Douglass D.I.V.A.S., a female empowerment student organization at Rutgers University. She is also an Institute for Women’s Leadership Scholar as well as an Eagleton Institute of Politics Undergraduate Associate.

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Jennifer Osolinski (L) and Felise Ortiz (R)

The underrepresentation of women in politics in the United States is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately and with urgency. With the help of the Institute of Women’s Leadership, my partner Jennifer Osolinski and I were able to facilitate a conversation addressing this issue. Our social action project was not only an opportunity to hone our feminist leadership skills but it also served as testament to the fact that the personal is indeed political. As former Eagleton and CAWP interns, Jennifer and I wanted our event to make at least one young woman consider a first step in the direction of politics. We were inspired by programs such as NEW LeadershipTM and Ready to RunTM because they inform women about the current political climate and encourage them to become involved in public service.

While strategizing on how to reach a youthful audience, we were approached with the possibility of doing a film “Raising Ms. President” a new documentary about getting girls politically active. Once we watched the trailer, we agreed that it would be a great foundation for our project and our overall message. I learned a lesson in patience and professionalism from this portion of the experience. I also learned that is apart of the feminist model of leadership to use your network. Our networks ultimately resulted in three amazing panelists and the film arriving on time. We had an audience of about twenty-five people who were enthusiastic about the film and project as a whole. I had a list of prepared remarks and questions for the panelist. However, I learned the most from the audience’s engagement with the panelists. There were many though-provoking questions asked and answered. The key moment of the event for me occurred after most of the attendees departed and two panelists were left talking passionately about campaigns. One woman was a Caucasian Republican representative from a suburban town and the other was a Black Democrat from an urban city, and they were networking. I watched politics (how it should work) happen organically with two women who shared a love for public service.

This project has taught me three key lessons:

1. The message is worth the madness. We were able to spread our message that women’s political involvement is important and can be transformational when it is made a priority. Any of the difficultly that we may have faced along the way was well worth it.

2. Not only is the personal, political but also the political is often better executed when it is personal. The research and our panelists attested to the fact that there is a dire need for more women in office in order for issues that affect women to be adequately advocated for. Another example would be my personal connection to this project, made me invested enough to see it through to the end.

3. Social justice based women’s leadership has been and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. During this process I have been inspired by the social action projects of my classmates and how we have rallied together to support one another. The bond we created through this experience has strengthened me and I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity.

 

Art Imitates Life…in Politics

Six of this year’s nine Best Picture Oscar nominees are based on true stories – from 12 Years a Slave’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir to American Hustle’s admission that “some of oscars_leadthis actually happened” in the FBI’s Abscam operation. Whether nearer to or farther from the truth, these movies demonstrate the ways in which the art of film draws from the realities in life. In politics, one of those realities is the dearth of women in elected office. Despite the progress in recent decades, women still represent less than a quarter of elected officials at the state, statewide, and federal levels. Even fewer elected women make it to the big screen.

In a recent analysis of family films released between 2006 and 2011, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found no speaking character played a powerful American female political figure, compared to 45 U.S. male politicians. And among films with a more adult audience, very few films with prominent political women characters, especially from the U.S., come to mind.

Look for lists of movies with fictional political women leads and the most commonly cited films date back more than a decade, with Joan Allen’s portrayal of a vice presidential nominee in The Contender (2000) and Glenn Close as Vice President in Air Force One (1997). The most recent films based on real-life female politicians profile women leaders from outside of the United States (e.g. The Iron Lady (2011), The Lady (2011), The Queen (2006)).

Fictional and memorialized American male politicians are easier to find in film history. Last year’s Oscar season buzzed with portrayals of two male presidents in Lincoln (2012) and Hyde Park on Hudson (2012). The year before, The Ides of March (2011) received an Oscar nomination for its screenplay about a male presidential contender. And few female roles compare to those  of Kevin Kline as President Bill Mitchell in Dave (1993)or Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995).

So have films settled for the status quo by leaving political women out of the equation? Not entirely. While few, there are examples of films introducing audiences to fictional political women leaders. In 1931, just over a decade after women won the right to vote, Oscar-winner Marie Dressler played Hattie Burns, a middle-aged widow turned mayoral candidate in Politics (1931). In 1947, a year when only eight women served in the U.S. Congress, Loretta Young played Katie Holstrom, a farm girl turned Congresswoman, in The Farmer’s Daughter. Project Moonbase, a futuristic film released in 1953, is recognized as the first film with a woman president, though she is never seen on screen. A decade later, Polly Bergen played President Leslie McLoud in Kisses for My President (1964), a comedic take on the challenges that might face the first female president (and her male spouse) upon moving into the White House. That year, real U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major political parties. Life imitating art? Maybe.

At the Center for American Women and Politics, we know that Marian Wright Edelman’s reminder that “you can’t be what you can’t see” is especially true when it comes to women and elected office. In addition to increasing the number of elected women who can serve as role models in real life, bringing more elected women – whether fictional or not – to the big screen can help to alter the image of political leadership so that a President Leslie McCloud doesn’t seem so far from reality.

We’re looking for your help! Here is a working list of fictional films with elected women characters. Can you add to this list? Post a comment here or on our Facebook page with additions.

Politics (1931): Middle-aged widow Hattie Burns (Marie Dressler) becomes fed up when local small-town politicians ignore corruption and decides to run for mayor herself.

The Farmer’s Daughter (1947): Katie Holstrom (Loretta Young) plays a farm girl who ends up working as a maid for a congressman and his politically powerful mother. After voicing her opinion at a public meeting, she is backed by leaders of the opposition party for a coming election to fill the seat of a deceased congressman. After her opponent attempts to smear her, Katie is proposed to by the congressman for whom she worked and, then, wins the support of his powerful mother, assuring her election. In the final scene, Glenn carries Katie across the threshold of the United States House of Representatives.

Key to the City (1950): At a mayors convention in San Francisco, ex-longshoreman Steve Fisk meets Clarissa Standish (Loretta Young)  from New England. Fisk is mayor of “Puget City” and is proud of his rough and tumble background. Standish is mayor of “Winona, Maine”, and is equally proud of her education and dedication to the people who elected her. Thrown together, the two opposites attract and their escapades during the convention get each of them in hot water back home.

Project Moonbase (1953): A woman is president of the US in the script, but the character is never seen on screen.

Kisses for my President (1964): When the women of America join together on election day and elect a Leslie McCloud (Polly Bergen) as the US President, things get a little awkward. Especially for her husband Thad NcCloud. He, as First Husband, must take over the job as The First Lady, in the women’s groups and garden parties.

Whoops Apocalypse (1986): Loretta Swit is Barbara Adams, the first female president. She was only sworn in office when the previous president, an ex-circus clown (a parody of Ronald Reagan’s entertainment career), died after asking a journalist to hit him in the stomach with a crowbar as a test of physical strength (a take on the death of Harry Houdini).

Air Force One (1997): Glenn Close plays the Vice President of the United States.

The Contender (2000): Sexy secrets from a woman’s (Joan Allen) past come to light as she runs for Vice President.

The Woman Every Man Wants/Perfect Love (2001): Sally Champlin plays the role of female president in this futuristic sci-fi film.

Mayor Cupcake (2011): A hard-working cupcake maker (Lea Thompson) is inadvertently elected mayor of a small town burdened with debt. Uneducated, she relies on her street smarts to clean up the town.

Presidential Lists are Due for Disruption

Today, as we celebrate those individuals who have held our nation’s highest office, it is worth taking note the absence of women from the list of 44 male presidents who have served in U.S. history. While multiple trailblazing women have challenged the expectations of masculine leadership in the White House, too few have received the recognition they deserved or the votes they needed to be labeled as “viable” contenders.Presidents-Day-Graphic-2014-MS

The words “woman president” today often cue “Hillary Clinton” among peers, colleagues, family, and friends. Too few people think of Margaret Chase Smith’s historic bid in 1964, as the first woman to have her name placed in nomination at a major party convention; or Shirley Chisholm in 1972, who was 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; or even Victoria Woodhull in 1872, who campaigned for the presidency before women could even vote nationwide. It’s true the 18 million cracks Hillary Clinton made in the proverbial “marble ceiling” of presidential politics may have made it less remarkable for a woman to be taken seriously as a presidential contender, but, as Dr. Ruth Mandel has written, the women who ran before her were instrumental in “[making] the idea [of a woman president] less outrageous to conceive.” 

Hillary Clinton is not only viewed as the most viable women who has run, but supporters and opponents alike view her as the most likely woman who will run in 2016. Consistent with all things Clinton, the attention paid to a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016 is already extreme. Thirty-three months before Election Day 2016, major news outlets like Time Magazine and the New York Times Magazine have made Clinton’s potential bid their cover stories, and few of Clinton’s public appearances go by without analysis over what they indicate about her campaign strategy. But as the assumptions of a Clinton candidacy grow stronger, the idea that she is the (cue: only) woman candidate in 2016 is not only unfair to the many qualified women who could be added to the Democratic and Republican short lists (see Kasie Hunt’s commentary on this here), but also places a great deal of pressure on Clinton.

While Democratic short lists for 2016 have included more women than in the past – floating Senators Warren, Gillibrand, and Klobuchar in addition to Secretary Clinton, men’s names outnumber women’s names, and few Republican short lists have included women amidst a very open, and arguably weak, Republican field. When women like Governor Susana Martinez are discussed, they are often considered as potential Vice Presidential nominees instead of among those likely to top the party ticket. These short lists are not only important in the horse race, but present cues to voters about who is qualified to run for president. And though women’s stables of elected officials remain smaller than men’s at all levels, there are just as many qualified women – Democrats and Republicans – as men to seek a home in the Oval Office.  So as we reflect on the absence of women on the list of U.S. presidents to date, let’s also question the dearth of women’s names floated as potential presidential contenders.

Women Going into the Family Business…of Politics

The lines of political succession for women in Congress began, in many cases, through marriage. Of the first ten women to serve in the U.S. Senate, five were appointed to fill vacancies left by their deceased husbands. In the U.S. House, 25 of the first 60 women to serve (from 1923 to 1963) were widows who filled their husband’s seats. However, in the past 50 years, only 18 women (4 Senate, 14 House) have entered Congress as a result of their husbands’ deaths. But political kinship is far from dead, and this year’s female candidates for the U.S. Senate might demonstrate that the dynastic politics we have traditionally seen among generations of political men may now provide political opportunities for women.

Of the 29 women who have put their names forward as U.S. Senate candidates in 2014, at least 5 are political daughters-turned-politicians. In Georgia, Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn is the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA). Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is the daughter of Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic chairman and state representative, and Charlotte Lundergan, Kentucky’s current Democratic National Committeewoman. In West Virginia, Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito (R) follows in the political footsteps of her father, Arch Alfred Moore, Jr., who served three terms as West Virginia’s governor. Until recently, Liz Cheney (R) was also among the class of political daughters waging a Senate bid in 2014.politicaldaughters

These women join two incumbent women senators running for re-election with political family ties. Both of Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) parents – Patricia R. and Donald F. Collins, served as mayor of Caribou, Maine, and her father went on to serve in both houses of the Maine legislature. Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) father, Maurice “Moon” Landrieu’s, was the popular Mayor of New Orleans from 1970-1978 before serving in President Carter’s administration and being appointed as a federal judge. Her brother, Mitch Landrieu, took on his father’s previous post as Mayor in 2010, after serving as Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor. Thus, political daughters are not new to Congress.

Four more women senators have political fathers. In December 2002, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the first daughter to be appointed to her father’s seat (by her father), which he had vacated after being elected governor of Alaska. Both Senator McCaskill’s (D-MO) and Senator Fischer’s (R-NE) fathers served in statewide office, and Senator Cantwell’s (D-WA) father was elected to both local and state legislative office. Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is probably the most well-known political daughter in the House of Representatives. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., was the Mayor of Baltimore and a Democratic Congressman representing the state of Maryland.

As more women enter office, the likelihood of passing the mantle from mother to daughter also grows. Of the current women Senators, at least two have mothers who were elected officials; as mentioned, Senator Collins’ mother served as mayor, and Senator McCaskill’s mother was the first woman elected to the Columbia, MO city council.[1] In the House, at least five women followed in the political footsteps of their mothers, who served in statewide, state legislative, and local offices.[2] And there’s already some sign that there will be more. At a December 2012 forum at Saint Anselm College, Senator Kelly Ayotte shared this exchange with her 8-year old daughter Kate:

“She came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I don’t want you to run for president.’ I said, ‘Kate, that’s not going to happen. Why are you asking me this?’ She said, ‘You know what, Mom? Because I want to be the first woman president.’”

With the dearth of women at KellyAyotteSwearingInall levels of political office, we can’t count on political moms or dads to be the sole motivators  for women to run. Nor would we want to discourage the innumerable qualified women from running because they were not born into political access or privilege. However, as research shows, we need to do better in filling the pipeline of potential women candidates, and that means looking at all options and pathways to office, including being engaged with and inspired by parents who participate in politics – whether as elected officials, advocates, or engaged citizens. Research shows that familial socialization vís a vís politics can increase women’s likelihood of considering running for office later in life, so parental political engagement in any capacity can foster an environment in which more daughters are willing to run.

The history of political kinship in American politics is long, and the Kennedys are likely the clearest example of an American political dynasty. In fact, a Kennedy has served in the U.S. Congress in all but two of the last 67 years.  Of all of the Kennedys who have served in elected office since 1892, however, only one has been a woman. In 1995, Robert Kennedy’s daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, became lieutenant governor of Maryland and the first Kennedy woman to hold an elected office.[3]  Townsend is not the first, but is now among a growing class of women who have disrupted the patrilineal threads of political kinship. And, who knows, we may soon be talking about Chelsea, Malia, Sasha, or Kate among the newest generation of political daughters!



[1] Senator Claire McCaskill’s mother went on to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

[2] Representative Terri Sewell’s (D-AL) mother was on the city council. Representative Rosa DeLauro’s (D-CT) mother was the longest-serving member of the New Haven Board of Alderman. Representative Kathy Castor’s (D-FL) mother was elected statewide as Florida’s Education Commissioner. Representative Ann McLane Kuster’s (D-NH) mother served in the New Hampshire State Senate. Representative Yvette Clarke’s (D-NY) mother served on the New York City Council and the two were the first mother to daughter succession in the Council’s history.

[3] Caroline Kennedy was appointed as Ambassador to Japan in November 2013.

Would women have shut down the shutdown?

A recent MSNBC article poses the question that has seeped into multiple debates and discussions over the current government shutdown: would we be here today if more women were in Congress? Columnists Khimm and Taylor highlight the efforts by Republican and Democratic women senators to bring members together and toward a solution to both re-open the government and address the debt ceiling; from potluck dinners and pizza parties to the Collins proposal, they note women’s willingness and ability to use personal relationships for political problem-solving.

Beyond the anecdotal evidence from the past few weeks, why else might we expect that more women in office might help to avert or assuage political gridlock?

1. Women enter office motivated to get things done.

In CAWP’s latest survey of state legislators, women reported that their top motivation to run for office was a concern about one or two public policy issues. The top motivation for male legislators, however, was a longstanding desire to be involved in politics. As a result, women come into office with a greater desire for policy achievements than political wins.

2. Women lead differently than men.

Research has shown that women often bring more inclusive, democratic, and collaborative styles of leadership to both public and private sectors.[1] In politics and government, multiple studies show that women look to facilitate – rather than control – discussion,  and they approach policymaking in a less confrontational way than their male counterparts.[2]

One study of mayors takes a particular look at the budgeting process. Weikart et al. (2006) found female mayors were far more willing than male mayors to change the budget process, be more inclusive, and seek broader participation in budget debates. Women mayors were also more willing to admit to fiscal problems and discuss solutions to fix them.

3. Women legislators are more responsive to their constituents.

Multiple studies show that women legislators spend more time engaging and responding to constituents, providing greater access by citizens to the legislative process.[3] In a setting where 91 percent of the electorate sees the shutdown as a serious problem, this attention to constituent demands is particularly important to shaping members’ willingness to compromise and seek solutions.

4. Women have built strong bipartisan relationships amidst hyper-partisanship.

When the number of women in the U.S. Senate reached 20 in January 2013, Diane Sawyer sat with the current class of women senators and discussed how their ability to work across party lines might be related to their efforts to build personal relationships. Known for their regularly-scheduled dinners together, the women in the Senate have translated personal friendships into professional collaboration on issues like sexual assault in the military, domestic energy, and – most recently – the federal budget.

This cross-aisle collaboration is not new to women in Congress. For example, it was a bipartisan group of women members who fought the National Institutes of Health to include women in clinical research trials in the early 1990s. While women – like men – differ on many issues, their experience working together on some issues provides a foundation upon which they can productively dialogue on the issues most important today.

As the government shutdown appears to be nearing its end, it has raised a number of questions about how we might avert a repeat performance. Getting more women elected might just be a start.

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[3] Beck (2001); Carey, Neimi, and Powell (1998); Epstein, Neimi, and Powell (2005); CAWP (2001) also finds that men and women state legislators believe that women legislators provide increased access to the legislature for traditionally disadvantaged groups in American society, such as racial and ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged.

Woman vs. Woman Races: Gender Exclusivity for Gender Inclusivity?

Even before odd-year elections in states like NJ and VA are over, we’re looking ahead to the 2014 midterm elections for opportunities to increase women’s representation. In a year when 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections and another 32 states will elect (or re-elect) U.S. Senators, will women move forward on the path toward political parity?

It’s too early to predict electoral outcomes, but CAWP is keeping track of women who have put their names forward as potential candidates for statewide or federal office. By looking at these early lists, we can get an initial sense of how many and where women are running, and how the pattern compares to candidate statistics at this point in previous cycles. Over the next year, we will report on trends we spot, interesting facts we find, or news you can use about women in the 2014 election in our news alerts and on this blog.

This week, we’re looking at woman vs. woman races. How many have we had? Do we expect any women-exclusive races in 2014? And what’s the political significance of such races?

Based on our latest counts, women are potential challengers to three of the four incumbent women senators up for re-election in 2014. Women are also running in both major party primaries for open Senate seats in Georgia (Democrat Michelle Nunn and former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel) and West Virginia (Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant).  No women have yet emerged to challenge the four incumbent women governors up for re-election next year, but many women have put their names forward as potential gubernatorial contenders in Florida, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Finally, as of today, women are running for both major party nominations in eight U.S. House districts, and another six districts have more than one woman running in either party’s primary.

Historically, woman vs. woman races for federal and statewide offices have been very rare. Of all general election U.S. Senate races to date, only 12 have pitted a Democratic woman against a Republican woman, and three of those contests occurred in 2012 alone. Women have faced each other in only four gubernatorial races in U.S. history, with two of those races in 2010 (in Oklahoma and New Mexico). Finally, while there have been 134 woman vs. woman elections for U.S. House seats over time, these represent less than a third of House elections held in any single year.

Some might argue that woman vs. woman races are not necessarily a sign of progress, that pitting women against women could actually be harmful to women’s representation, or that gender exclusivity for men or women is an unjust goal. Each of these arguments has merit and is worthy of greater debate. However, it is hard to say that increasing evidence of woman vs. woman races does not signal at least some progress.  At the least, woman vs. woman races reflect an increased willingness among women to run for the highest levels of elected office – and a willingness among parties and voters to elect them.

And for those who fear gender exclusivity of any stripe, let’s look at recent electoral history. Over 60% of general election U.S. House races in the past decade have been all-male contests, and 85% of uncontested candidates have been men.

About two-thirds of general election races for the U.S. Senate have been between two male candidates, and 80 of 106 gubernatorial races between 2004 and 2012 had no women. In contrast, about 2% of U.S. House races, 4% of U.S. Senate races, and less than 2% of gubernatorial contests in the past decade have been all-female.  And of course, men-only races at each of these levels of office only increase the further back we look.

Gender exclusivity in electoral contests should not be a goal, but it has been a reality for male candidates for far too long. For women to increase their political representation, they need to be more present as candidates. And if woman vs. woman races are a surefire way to get more women into office, then maybe an increase in gender exclusivity for women candidates actually means greater gender inclusivity in today’s politics.

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

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(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.)

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(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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 Doty's Group, 5-23-2013 021a 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.

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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/.

 

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.

On the Importance of Programs like Run Sister Run

Crystal DesVignes is a graduate student in political science at Rutgers University – Newark. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree and recently worked as a graduate intern at the Center for American Women and Politics. The views presented in this entry are her own.

            On March 22, 2013, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) hosted approximately fifty African American women for its annual Run Sister Run program in conjunction with its Ready to Run™ program. As part of the diversity initiative along with Elección Latina, and Rising Stars, Run Sister Run offers campaign and political leadership training for those of the African Diaspora. The program is an opportunity to receive encouragement and valuable insight, and to interact first-hand with other African American women who have either run for elected office, are currently running for a position, plan to run in the future, or are contemplating running for an elected office.

 R2R_12The program is geared toward making sure that African American women who are politically-minded have a space to network and be directed to resources and people who will help them to meet their political aspirations. As a third time attendee of the program, I was already a believer in its importance. But, as the saying goes, the third time was the charm for me in solidifying my understanding of why we need to continue programs like this and expand them around the country.

            As I write this piece, I am painfully aware of the issues that women face in our country, even in 2013. We are underpaid for our work in the market place (hence the need for equal pay legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and undervalued for our work in the home. We were reminded last year of the fragility of our right to reproductive healthcare, and there was even discussion around whether our bodies could “shut down” a pregnancy that resulted from a “legitimate rape.” We were reduced to being included in “binders full of women” in the last presidential election as one candidate sought to prove that he supported gender equality in his gubernatorial cabinet. Despite all of this, and in some cases because of this, we press on and continue to fight for our place in the decision-making process in our country and government.

            The road to political inclusion is hard for women, to say the least. But for women of color, and African American women it particular, it can mean being doubly excluded from the political arena due to racialization and gendering. Of 98 women serving in Congress (18.3 % of the 535 seats in the 113th Congress), 30 or 30.6% are women of color. Only 14 are African American women. African American women hold only 241 seats in state legislatures across 44 states, and although New Jersey has an African American woman currently serving as speaker of the State Assembly (the Honorable Shelia Y. Oliver), she is only the second African American woman to hold this office in a state legislature nationwide.

            The numbers don’t lie. The people who come to the table to make decisions in our cities, states, and capitals should not all look alike. They should represent the country as we know it. To have a more inclusive racial/ethnic and gendered make-up among our elected officials isn’t just good politics, it makes for better government. We need more representation from African American women. The Center for American Women and Politics provides just a forum for this endeavor in Run Sister Run.