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empowering women, girls and their families to achieve equal opportunities in their personal and professional lives
Did you read our recent post, Breaking Down Barriers to Women in Politics and become frustrated by the lack of ladies in politics? This absence is due to multiple systemic factors that make it more difficult for women to run for political office, such as implicit bias. Luckily, two upcoming events are targeted to assisting women interested in breaking down those barriers to be involved in politics.
On Wednesday March 12th, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) is hosting Women’s Day at the Capitol entitled “Journalism & Gender: When Women Report on Politics and Public Policy.” The day will begin with networking at 9:30 followed by a welcome from constitutional officers. Next, a panel of female political reporters will share their experiences in the field. Lunch is provided after the panel, another opportunity for attendees to network with one another.
After PCSW’s program, participants have the opportunity to learn how to manage a political campaign or run for a political office. Specifically, CT NOW is hosting an informational forum with Patti Russo, Executive Director of the Yale Women’s Campaign School at 1:45 in the North Lobby of the LOB. CT NOW is offering two full scholarships* to cover the cost of attending the annual summer session. The Yale Women’s Campaign School tuition costs $1,250 and runs from June 9-June 13, 2014. The informational forum will allow participants to learn more about the Yale Women’s Campaign School, how to apply for the scholarship, and ask questions.
*Please note: Eligible women for the full scholarships are pro-choice, pro-marriage equality and interested in holding office in Connecticut.
Written by Nikki Seymour. Nikki is a first year Master’s in Social Work (policy concentration) student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and a Research & Evaluation intern at CWEALF.
In recent years, several measures have been taken to advance gender equality in today’s workforce and political environment. For Connecticut, the 2013 election became a historical turning point for women as many prevailed in highly contested political races within the state. While this defining moment promises future success for female leaders, women still remain widely underrepresented in leadership roles. Presently, women constitute only 14 percent of the state’s Congressional Delegation, 29 percent of the Connecticut General Assembly, and 25 percent of municipal governing bodies. What’s striking about these statistics is that studies show that women tend to fare well against men in political campaigns. The existing disparity among female representation in politics can be attributed to a variety of societal factors that impact a woman’s decision to pursue a political seat. Nonetheless, women are vital to the political arena as they provide a perspective unique to their male counterparts.
Women face a range of barriers regarding their political involvement. The most prevalent is the gender bias within American society, which urges women to take on more of a domestic identity than professional or community leader. This implicit bias often shapes a woman’s political and occupational experience and work availability which ultimately impacts their success within the political arena. These factors contribute to the common lack of political ambition among women and girls.
Furthermore, while women fare well against men in political campaigns, women are often presented with obstacles during the campaign process. These include bias within political party recruitment, securing fundraising sources, and fewer network connections within the “political pipeline.” Studies show women are less likely to be considered during political party recruitment and endorsement. Without party endorsement, candidates are frequently put at a disadvantage. In addition, men and women candidates usually raise comparable campaign funds; however, women are more likely to have difficulty attracting funders from traditional sources. These factors derive from the limited access women have to political networking. With fewer women in politics than men, female candidates lack networking and mentoring opportunities. This again disempowers women from seeking and obtaining political leadership positions.
Having more female leaders within Connecticut would not only encourage young women and girls to pursue non-traditional professions, it would also benefit the productivity and functionality of our governing bodies. In fact, female political leaders are more likely to advocate for women’s rights and social justice issues and offer a different perspective in addressing public policy. To learn more about how CWEALF works to promote women in policy and leadership, read our recap on the 3rd Annual Women’s Policy Day.
In 1993, I first heard of the effort starting here in Connecticut, to actively address the painful disparity found in the percentage of elected women office-holders (14%) compared to the percentage of elected men office-holders (86%). These were the percentages for all elected positions across the United States.
I soon found the dynamic group of women, who were organizing a way to close this gap. Their plan was to increase the number of successfully elected women candidates with an innovative, non-partisan approach. This effort was the right step at the right time… in the right direction.
This non-partisan approach called for creating a five-day campaign training program held on the campus of Yale University. The joint affiliation of both program and site became The Women’s Campaign School (WCS) at Yale University. The program provided an intensely informative campaign overview and also focused on identifying the campaign challenges directly facing women candidates.
Challenges themselves were examined in memorable workshops and training sessions. Workable remedies were offered and examined as well. Woman candidates could turn challenges into winning campaign tools.
At the close of the first WCS five-day program in 1993, the results were deeply satisfying. The Women’s Campaign School at Yale University delivered a valuable and relevant program.
When we fast forward twenty years from 1993, already several hundred women have attended the five-day WCS program, coming because they clearly understand the value and the need for campaign training. No matter which country or which state the attendees come from, they clearly understand that an election campaign must first be won for public service to follow.
It is an honor for WCS to be recognized for its work by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF). For forty years we have looked to CWEALF in Connecticut as a leading voice for women. Since 1973, CWEALF has made its own pioneering effort to create equal opportunity, to create equal access, and to create a level playing field for women in this state. Thank you.
Written by Carolanne Curry. Carolanne is a Founding Board Member of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University and President Emertia.
December 15th marked the beginning of an ambitious program called Women in Public Service Project. This is a partnership between the State Department and the Seven Sisters women’s colleges. This program is a new initiative focused on increasing the number of women in public service at the local, national, and international levels.
Considering our modern society is facing complex challenges that have long term consequences, the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) wants to offer pertinent and practical solutions not only for the present, but for the future. These solutions can be addressed by an active and consistent participation “of women in public service and political leadership to forge global solutions to improve governance, expand civil rights, and combat corruption.”
WPS envisions that by 2050, political and civic leadership will be at least 50% female. These are their goals:
1. Challenge the world community to identify, create, and advance a new generation of women committed to public service;
2. Bring together thought leaders, educators, and public servants from around the world, as well as members of the private and non-profit sectors, who wish to take up this challenge;
3. Identify and address the obstacles that prevent more women from committing to a life of public service and political leadership;
4. Explore creative solutions that will increase the number of young women who aspire and are empowered to pursue a career in public service; and
5. Make recommendations for implementing those solutions at all levels of political involvement around the world
Among the speakers that took the stage were the Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Ironically, the main subject of the discussions was failure. However, failure was seen from a positive stand point. Clinton’s Presidential Run was presented as an example because it brought success in the long run since Ms. Clinton was named Secretary of State. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised Clinton, saying “It’s quite rare to see someone take that risk. It should inspire greatly.”
Another remarkable woman that spoke at the Women in Public Service (WPS) event was Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services. During the discussions she made a valid point that “The willingness to fail is necessary to succeed.” She also emphasized on the importance of taking risks when opportunity comes along.
One of the ways WPS aims to increase the number of women in political and civil leadership is by creating an online mentoring program that will connect women from around the world that have experience in the public sector to young women (future leaders) who they will mentor. This program brings awareness to the importance of increasing access to opportunities and resources. It will be very interesting to follow this initiative in the upcoming year.
For more information, take a look at the following:
Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton - Remarks to the Women in Public Service Colloquium
In a previous article I talked about the reality of gender diversity in the corporate world, or the lack of it. I emphasized on the unequal distribution at the top executive levels when we take into account the men-women ratio. Well, the situation is not that significantly different when we examine the political scene here in the US. Women are still under-represented at all governmental levels (federal, state and local).
Yes, the numbers have gone up, but the progress is not that remarkable if you take into consideration that the US population has increased during this time. According to the data presented by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United States ranks 90th in the world, when it comes to the number of women in our national legislature.
*Note: The U.S. is listed as 73rd, but after accounting for tied rankings of other countries, the ranking for the U.S. is 90th - as of 31 October 2011
Here is the data regarding women in an elective office (2011):
● Congress has 535 seats - women hold only 90 seats (i.e. 16.8%);
● Senate has 100 seats - women hold only 17 seats (i.e. 17%);
● House of Representatives has 435 seats - women hold only 73 seats (i.e. 16.8);
● Out if the 50 states only 6 have a female governor.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics among the states with the highest percentage of state legislators in 2011, Connecticut makes the top ten holding the 9th position. In Connecticut the percentage is 29.9%.
Bottom line is that, the major causes for the existing state of under-representation of women in elective offices is linked to social and cultural norms (especially gender stereotypes) and the closed party system.