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.

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.

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/.  

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.

CAWP On the Road: Re-envisioning Public Leadership

"Our dream is a generation of young people who expect and believe that leadership should be diverse in every way." – Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), Rutgers University This week, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) was proud to join the White House and the U.S. Department of Education in co-sponsoring the Conference on Girls’ Leadership and Civic Education at the White House. The Conference was intended to move the ball forward on President Obama’s pledge to promote political and economic equality for all women through the Equal Futures Partnership. To do so, the conference co-hosts brought together scholars, public officials, leaders of youth-serving organizations, media experts, business leaders, educators, young leaders, and others to address questions and concerns related to civic engagement, gender, and public leadership. The conference posed the following questions:
  • How do we teach our young people about public leadership and the role of government in a way that engages boys and girls equally?
  • How can we ensure that our civic education efforts inspire both boys and girls to envision themselves as future governmental leaders?
  • How do we inform all our young people about the roles women play as leaders in government, from City Hall to the White House?
904353_560918890614979_1991535836_o Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

photo2 Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

These questions are broad and have no simple answers, but the dialogue begun by two expert panels, five productive breakout sessions, and insights from two female members of the U.S. Senate (Collins and Heitkamp) was incredibly valuable to informing action that organizations, media, educators, and others can take to better reach the goal laid out at the start of this post. Conference panelists and speakers focused on the importance of early intervention to introduce young girls and boys to images and ideas of public leadership that are both accessible and diverse. They emphasized the need to combat countervailing pressures, particularly for girls, that divert them away from leadership and/or cause them to question their ability, intelligence, or willingness to stand apart from the crowd. Many participants cited the need for and utility of role models and mentors who  allow girls to both imagine themselves as public officials and, in some cases, provide them the tools and the advice to find political or policy success. From including more female leaders in classroom 921212_560918807281654_1846322512_omaterials (or even posters!) and media images to connecting young people directly with female leaders in their communities, adults from all sectors (educators, parents, media, politicians, organization leaders) can, as Ruth Mandel (Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University) said on Monday, “contribute to making the idea of woman political leaders seem natural, even inevitable.” Dr. Jill Biden kicked off the conference by sharing a story about her own daughter, who was lucky enough to see women’s political leadership first-hand at a very early age when her father (then-Senator Joe Biden) took her to the U.S. House of Representatives to advocate for an issue she cared so deeply about – dolphin safety. Lobbying then-Representative Barbara Boxer (CA), Biden’s daughter not only met a powerful woman whom she could emulate, but – according to Dr. Biden, “She saw that she could effect change.” 922125_560919180614950_1284175309_oCAWP has spent more than three decades dedicated to harnessing public leadership in women and girls, from our work with the Public Leadership Education Network to our NEW LeadershipTM program for college women (now in 24 states). We are especially proud to be launching a new initiative, Teach a Girl to LeadTM (TAG), which will be a national education and awareness campaign to re-envision what public leaders look like. TAG will draw upon the experts and organizations who participated in the White House conference, many of whom are already project allies, to meet its goals of better integrating gender into civic engagement and education, and public leadership into efforts aimed at girls’ empowerment. Our staff left Washington, DC with new wisdom, new relationships, and renewed energy to inspire and engage a new generation of women leaders. We look forward to your ideas, support, and enthusiasm to make our dream a reality. To learn more, visit our website and check out photos from the conference.

Spotlight: Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee Celebrates 25 Years

The Center for American Women and Politics is proud to work with colleagues and partners throughout the country to advance women in politics and leadership. This week, footnotes is proud to host a guest blog post from Susan Rose, a former county supervisor (Santa Barbara, CA) and faculty member of CAWP's 2012 Project. In this post, Susan highlights the important work done by the Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Thank you to Susan and to the SBWPC for your work on behalf of women! Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee: 25th Anniversary Susan Rose

Susan-Rose-BIG-version
The Honorable Susan Rose
 

 

The 2012 election resulted in some formidable firsts for women.  Although the percentage of women in the U.S. Congress still remains low (18%), they broke several glass ceilings.  Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate; Tammy Duckworth the first disabled veteran in Congress; Tulsi Gabbard the first Hindu in Congress; and Mazie Hirono the first Asian-American woman in the Senate. However, there is still much unfinished business for the feminist agenda and an imperative need to secure the gains that have been made.  To do that, more women must run for national office.  How can women candidates get started in politics?  Is there a pipeline and if not can one be created? In the late 1980’s, a small group of women gathered in Santa Barbara, California and asked the question: can women have a significant impact by acting locally?  Reflecting on 25 years of political activism, the answer is an unqualified yes.  The following narrative describes how these feminists created a pipeline using an activist model. The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (SBWPC) was established in January of 1988, with a raucous reception in a popular watering hole that brought out 250 women and men.  Betty Friedan was the keynote speaker that evening and anti-choice opponents picketed the event.  The time was right to organize! sbwpc-logoFrom the beginning, the SBWPC defined itself as a feminist organization.  Their 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 25 years, the SBWPC has pursued gender equity through many avenues but with the specific focus of creating social change through public policy.  The theory that female elected officials would do more to make a difference in the lives of women has since been documented by academic institutes like the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University.  Additional research from Stanford has demonstrated that female legislators perform better than their male counterparts once in office. To attain gender equity, the SBWPC aimed to achieve representational balance by electing feminist women to public office.  Over these years, the organization has supported many women for school boards, city councils, boards of supervisors, the state legislature, California statewide offices, congress and the presidency. During the 1990’s, more women began to run for office in Santa Barbara.  Since 1999, the county has been represented by a woman in congress.  Women have comprised as much as 80% of the County Board of Supervisors, served as mayors, District Attorney, and in both houses of the state legislature. They also hold many positions on school boards and local commissions. Since 1988, the SBWPC had endorsed 95 candidates.  A total of fifty-six of those were women (59%).  Only four of the women lost. All candidates endorsed the feminist agenda. The success of the organization is best demonstrated by the impact these women have had on public policy and governance.  Issues and legislation introduced by women elected to office in Santa Barbara have covered a broad range of topics:

  • Congresswoman Lois Capps has been committed to women and families by supporting legislation on health care, the environment and education including the Affordable Health Care Act;
  • State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has emphasized domestic violence and reproductive rights.  Jackson’s legislation has assisted victims of abuse and created access to affordable reproductive care.
  • District Attorney Joyce Dudley has worked to expand rape laws, eliminate rape kit backlogs and increase timely testing of all kits.
  • The late County Supervisor Naomi Schwartz chaired both the local First Five Children’s Commission and the California Coastal Commission making children and the environment her hallmark issues.
  • County Supervisor Janet Wolf has focused on health care and gender balance in public appointments.  Wolf has worked to expand breast cancer digital mammography services for under-served women.
  • As Mayor of the City of Santa Barbara, Helene Schneider has established a focus on fair pay, housing, homelessness, human services and education.

In its early days, the SBWPC founding board of directors created a set of tools that enabled them to ensure the election of feminist women to office.  They include:

  • Position papers;
  • Recruitment of women candidates;
  • Campaign skills workshops;
  • Candidate assessment teams;
  • Endorsements;
  • State and federal PAC money; and
  • Media strategies.

These tools are still in place today and guide the board in their decision-making. The question of supporting male candidates arose in the early years.  On the occasions when they did not have women candidates, the SBWPC endorsed men who, in turn, supported their agenda.  As a result of this policy, today the endorsement of the SBWPC is highly sought after by all candidates in Santa Barbara. Many of the first candidates to be endorsed by the PAC were founding board members.  As they left the board to run for office, others took their place.  The board itself became a source for candidates, creating an early pipeline.  Some went on to join public boards and commissions and others became staff members to the newly elected women.  As part of their current organizational structure, the SBWPC has a standing pipeline committee that focuses on recruiting women for future elections. In Santa Barbara County, women have achieved political and electoral success by grass roots organizing, marching, mentoring, advocating and campaigning.  As a result of these efforts, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee has created a culture where women in public office are the norm not the exception. The organizational model developed by the SBWPC has been tried and tested over the years. It can be replicated in other communities.  It has worked on a local level, why not nationally? If you or your organization would like to submit a guest blog post to footnotes, please email Kelly Dittmar at kdittmar@rci.rutgers.edu.

Will women hold the “high seats” in Obama’s second term?

This morning, Secretary of State Clinton introduced and endorsed Senator John Kerry as the next Secretary of State in front of the Senate panel who will vote on his confirmation. If confirmed (as expected), Kerry will be the first white male to hold the post in 16 years. While few have questioned Kerry’s credentials for the job, there has been concern about whether Kerry’s appointment – along with those of Chuck Hagel (Defense) and Jack Lew (Treasury), and paired with resignations of three cabinet-level women  (including two women of color) and three cabinet-level men of color-- represents a trend toward a less diverse cabinet in President Obama’s second term. It is still too soon to say that Obama’s second term cabinet will be less racially and gender diverse than his first. By my count, Obama has seven cabinet-level appointments left to make, based on vacancies and resignations: Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Labor, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Trade Representative, and Chief of Staff. Of the 16 other cabinet or cabinet-level posts, four women will keep their positions: Secretaries Sebelius (HHS) and Napolitano (Homeland Security), Ambassador Rice (UN), and Administrator Mills (SBA) are expected to stay on for the start of Obama’s second term.

Obama Cabinet_First Term Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy (July 26, 2012)

 

While the President may still have opportunities to increase the diversity of his team, the rumored short lists and limited openings for these offices make it unlikely that Obama’s second term cabinet will top the eight women (35%) serving simultaneously during his first term. If so, he could buck the positive trend of the two previous presidents, who actually increased the percentage of women in their cabinets during their second terms. However, it is important to note that President Obama did appoint two women, including one Latina, to the Supreme Court, and included three women among the top six members of his White House staff (two Deputy Chiefs of Staff – one of whom is leaving next week - and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett). In 2010, Dr. Mary Anne Borelli wrote that, by 2009, “The inclusion of women in the cabinet had become the norm.” As more women have been appointed to cabinet and cabinet-level posts, the questions have shifted from whether or not a woman will be selected to how many women will serve, for what posts they will be chosen, and to what extent their voices will be heard in the most significant White House policy discussions. While the State Department has, in the past two decades, become a common home for female leaders, other influential departments – Defense and Treasury - have yet to see women at the helm.  Amidst international conflicts and economic challenges, these cabinet posts are particularly important in guiding United States policy and ensuring national stability and strength. Gender scholarship argues that having diverse voices in those discussions is essential, both to representing unique constituencies and to bringing new perspectives, approaches, and styles to the decision-making process. More specifically, research on female appointees at the state and national levels has shown that women are not only more responsive to women’s policy concerns, but also more likely to bring more women to the decision-making table via their hiring decisions. In yesterday’s congressional hearings on the Benghazi tragedy, many House and Senate members remarked on Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, and most applauded her staunch dedication to women’s rights and women’s security as a large part of her legacy there. Her accomplishments follow those of other female appointees like Secretary Madeleine Albright, who identified women’s rights as a priority of American foreign policy, Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps, who encouraged President Carter’s creation of an Interagency Task Force on Women Business Owners, and – of course – Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, who not only broke the glass ceiling for women in presidential cabinets, but also pioneered U.S. policy to protect the most vulnerable workers (especially women and children) and promote their economic security for generations to come through the Social Security Act. Perkins once reflected on her appointment by President Roosevelt in this way:

The door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time and I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats.

As we enter President Obama’s second term, we will pay close attention to not only the number of women in the “high seats” within the administration, but also to the power and influence those seats are given in the four years to come. See CAWP's Infographic and Fact Sheet on Women and Presidential Appointments for more details.

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