Hilary Clinton once said, “When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit — so let's keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves.” And, whether you’re a Hilary fan or not, most of us can agree that we need more women in leadership positions. Why? Because decades of research show that women make a difference in elected office.
Statically, women are more collaborative and bipartisan than men; they push for more policies meant to support women, children, social welfare and national security; they sponsor and cosponsor more bills; they are significantly more likely than men to sponsor bills in areas of civil rights, health and education; and they bring nine percent more federal money home to their districts. Ultimately, women bring different views, skills and priorities to governance.
But, as of the November 2016 election, Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times, reported that the number of female governors dropped from six to five and the number of women in Congress stayed the same at 104, or 19 percent of the seats in the House and Senate (one seat was gained in the Senate and one lost in the House). But, now, an unprecedented surge of female candidates are running for office, from the U.S. Senate to state legislatures to local school boards and beyond. So we reached out to women running to ask them about why a woman’s place is in the House (and Senate).
1. Women deserve respect.
“There’s still so much marginalization happening in our political arena,” says Helga Luest, who is running for Maryland State Delegate in District 18. “Women work hard to be in leadership positions and should be respected... I'm not just a write-off candidate to help split the vote, and men shouldn't be using women to maintain or attain new positions of power… To me, it says #TimesUp! There will be a tidal wave of women taking new positions of power this year and we will shatter the glass ceiling.”
2. Women need advocates.
“Economic justice is intersectional with racial justice, feminism and environmental protection; you cannot truly protect a vulnerable population without providing them the means to financial independence and to have their basic needs met,” says Molly Sheehan, a bioengineer and mother who is running for US Congress in Pennsylvania's 7th District, and who is fighting for women's rights and single payer healthcare. “The #MeToo movement is actually rooted in economic justice. When a woman is biased against, made uncomfortable or abused in the workplace, her economic prospects are limited. The #MeToo movement and the women whose lives have been hurt by these actions are not a springboard from which the political establishment should be launching to greater power. The very foundation of the #MeToo movement is to challenge patriarchal establishment structures. This is why I am running for US Congress — not for my own personal ideological power, but to amplify the voices of my fellow women who have been oppressed by this system.”
3. Women offer new perspectives.
“Women bring a perspective that is unique, different and more encompassing of the realities of multitasking through life,” says Sydney Kalmager, the current president of the Los Angeles Community College District Board and the district director for state senator Holly J. Mitchell. Kalmager is striving to win a seat as an LA County supervisor. “Public policy is often complicated, nuanced and layered with some form of compromise — just like life. Women get that. We really do.”
4. Women are natural leaders.
“Women already lead,” says Stephanie Smith, who is running for Maryland’s House of Delegates. “We advocate for our children and families and perform public service in our neighborhoods. If women aren't at the policy-making table, our priorities and needs will likely end up on the menu. While 2018 will be marked by the rise of first-time female political candidates, it's simply a natural extension of the leadership women already show all around us."
5. Women fight for the people.
“The people you represent depend on you to make decisions that affect their lives and their livelihoods, and, as a candidate and an office holder, you have to have the courage to stand up for their best interests no matter what," says Kim R. Ford, who is running for Congress. "I think so many women — and women of color — are stepping up to run this year because we’ve been so disappointed by the lack of leadership coming out of Washington and out of State Capitols. Too many people have made elected office their profession; they’ve stopped taking those stands for their constituents. They’re wrapped up in the cycle of credit and blame that doesn’t do anything to improve the lives of their constituents. And we know we can do this differently. My plan is to serve long enough to accomplish what my constituents need most, then get out of the way, knowing that I’ve groomed a successor to carry on the work.”
6. Women are persistent.
“Every aspect of a woman’s life is up for debate; we judge their clothes, hair, ambitions, families choices, etc.,” says Anita Malik, democratic candidate for congress in Arizona's 6th District. “Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to it but, make no mistake, it has made us stronger. The inequalities of our culture have taught women to persist. It is that quality that makes us strong legislators for our communities... We simply can’t be detached politicians; we must and will be there for our families and, therefore, our communities. Women are less driven by ego, and where we don’t show inflated confidence, we often shine with greater competence. We listen first and lead from learning. Women will lead the way to bring smart compassion back to DC.”
7. Women are tired and angry.
“I had to gaze into my mirror and say to myself, look what’s happening in my own backyard,” Lucia “Lucy” McBath, who is running to earn a seat to represent an Atlanta-area district in the Georgia House of Representatives, told Think Progess.
8. Women are well equipped.
“It’s 2018, and women are stepping up as viable candidates for political leadership positions, even in Texas,” says Retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, a candidate for Texas commissioner of agriculture. “Just by running a strong campaign, it brings issues important to women and families to the table, literally, like food. There is a long legacy of farmers in both mine and my husband’s families, so I understand the challenges of farming and the demands it places on the family. Because farmers work really, really hard, I believe they and everyone else in Texas deserve the exceptional leadership that I am equipped to provide.”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.