Another Year of the Woman? Really?

by Gloria Feldt on February 1st, 2012
in Election Watch, Feminism, Gender, General, Leadership, Political Strategy, Politics, Power, Women & Politics and tagged , , , , , , ,

There was a short piece in Monday’s USA Today saying that 2012 is shaping up to be another “Year of the Woman.”   And they did have some very good news numbers to back that notion:

 …a notable number of candidates are running in potentially competitive races in both the House of Representatives and Senate that could send a wave of female lawmakers to Washington in November. If so, it would reverse the 2010 election trend that saw the first dip in female representation in the House since 1978 and only sent one woman, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, to the Senate.

In the 2012 Senate lineup, there are 10 female candidates — four Republicans and six Democrats — seeking office. Of the six states with female Democratic candidates — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin — none has ever elected a woman to the Senate.

Republican women are running in Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico.

I want to believe, oh how I want to believe. These numbers, though inching up, still represent a mere fractional increase—even if all of them are elected—a probability somewhere around that of hell freezing over.

At the rate we have been going for the last 20 years and since the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992, it will take 70 years to reach gender parity in Congress.

Still, the growing number of women running is a tribute to hard work by organizations like the Women’s Campaign Forum, White House Project, and Emily’s List over the last several decades, as well as newer groups such as Emerge America, Running Start, and the 2012 Project.

Let us also give a cheer for Hillary Clinton who put those 18 million cracks in the “highest and hardest” glass ceiling and showed young women once and for all that they really can grow up to be president.

The increase in women candidates also raises a new issue, heretofore swept under the rug. Whereas progressive, socially liberal women (Democrats and Republicans) opened the doors for all women to run for office, today woman run from across the political spectrum.

Candidates like right-wing Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin who oppose women’s reproductive rights, equal pay initiatives, and other policies that help women have a fair shot are indelible examples. In the past, women candidates of both parties were more likely to prioritize and support issues like education, health, child care, and reproductive justice. No more.

So no longer can women, or men who support women’s equality, blindly follow former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s admonition that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Now, every responsible pro-woman voter must first check out female candidates’ agendas as well as their gender.

It’s time to be out of the closet about that fact and not fool ourselves that electing just any woman is good for women overall.

The solution to the problem always changes the problem.  Still, it’s a great problem to have.

And if 2012 brings about a measurable increase in women at the top of the policy making tree, it’ll be cheers all around. But let this also be a wake-up call to progressive women that this is the moment to step it up as voters, candidates, and activists.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Latest posts by Gloria Feldt (Posts)

5 Responses to Another Year of the Woman? Really?

  1. Aletha says:

    Gloria, would you mind defining what progressive means to you? You seem quite comfortable with the term. I find it so hopelessly vague and so often misused that it seems to obscure more than it reveals. Perhaps it seems that way to me because US politics has drifted so far to the right that anyone closer to the middle can call themselves progressive. I can recall when progressive was claimed by the far left. On the other hand, Cornel West claimed the President publicly berated him after a speech for saying Obama is not a progressive, which to my mind is self-evident if progressive means anything at all like believing in meaningful progress. I think I understand what you mean by progressive, but perhaps you can understand why the term makes me squirm.

    The Free Soil Party will soon be issuing its own clarion call to women who are unhappy with the change Obama believes in to run for office, but it will not use the term progressive.

  2. Gloria Feldt says:

    Fair question, Aletha. I use progressive to mean center left to very liberal political positions and policy issues regardless of party identification.

  3. Moms Hugs says:

    Gloria, Aletha’s question is spot-on. The liberal & conservative labels are intended to put people & issues into tight political boxes of disparagement. The term “progressive” was coined by Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, who wanted changes that would cause the nation to become a better place & a higher standard of living for all citizens. When Roosevelt left office, he firmly believed that Taft would continue those efforts, but he returned from Europe to find Taft had capitulated to the worst of greedy corporate/family trusts who used & abused workers. Roosevelt’s efforts to again form a new Progressive Party failed.

    To me, the term “progressive” means anyone in either party who THINKS beyond limited label boxes about how our society can provide the best life for as many citizens as possible… and walks their talk! Anyone using labels to attack, ala Gingrich, is the opposite – a person with limited thinking who does not want our nation to grow into an even greater nation for all of its citizens.

    Frankly, I am sooooo tired of labels. Aren’t you? Hugs ~ Moms

  4. Moms Hugs says:

    Gloria ~

    Forgot – I think your definition is “moderate” as applied to centrist positions regardless of party affiliation. Words can be very powerful destroyers of civil discussion & compromise for the general welfare of the country (as Gingrich has proven for 2+ decades). Don’t you wish we could have a summit to address what our national philosophy should be?

    Hugs ~ Moms

  5. Gloria Feldt says:

    Moms Hugs,
    I actually think we all need to learn to embrace controversy and use it to help foster healthy debate on the substance of issues rather than character assassination. So I’m not adverse at all to argument, but I certainly agree with you that we need to establish a culture in which we do that in a civil way.

    Thanks for your comment and your thought about how to further clarify the definition of “progressive.”

Take The Lead Presented and Connected in 2014—and Wants Your Suggestions for 2015

IMG_6939-X3Understanding the Role Confidence Plays Would workplaces become more balanced and society more equitable if women exhibited more confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman created a stir with their book The Confidence Code and their article, “The Confidence Gap” in The Atlantic. To continue this important conversation, we were honored to have Shipman speak to the Take The Lead community in July about how personal confidence relates to women advancing in the workplace and in society. Yes, women face very real barriers, no matter how confident we are, but leading with confidence expands our possibilities in ways that change our lives and the lives of other women. (Like this quote? Tweet it!) Did you attend this event with Shipman? What did you learn? This confidence question will surely be an ongoing conversation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts! TakeTheLead-80-X3The Solution to Feeling Stuck: Get a Coach! At Take The Lead we teach women to define their lives and careers on their own terms. But history has also told us how crucial it is to seek help when we need it. That’s why we were so excited to gather some of the best coaches we know for an event in NYC sponsored by the fabulous ALEX AND ANI. Alisa Cohn, Robyn Hatcher, Bonnie Marcus, Dana Balicki, Audrey S. Lee, Maggie Castro Stevens, and Leslie Grossman joined us to share their wisdom and generously donate hours of coaching time to attendees. See photos from the event and learn more here. 15777710358_506c524d16_o-X3Circling Up! One way we achieve leadership parity at Take The Lead is by working with women across all backgrounds, generations, and professional fields. And we’re proud to collaborate with a larger resurgent women’s movement. One way we create connections among women is through our online Take The Lead Community. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so to network and get honest, actionable advice from other accomplished women having valuable conversations. Soon we’ll be adding a mentoring component you won’t want to miss. Gearing Up for 2015 Stay in touch with Take The Lead by signing up for our newsletter, and following us Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks again to everyone who joined us this year and stay tuned for exciting developments in 2015! Remember! Please take a moment in the comments section to tell us what’s bugging you, highlight learning topics you want to see in our webcasts, courses, or blog, and suggest experts you admire. You can also tweet us at @takeleadwomen using the hashtag #takeleadwomen2015. If you’re moved by the work Take The Lead does to give women and men true parity across all sectors, it’s not too late to donate to enable us to Teach, Connect, and Present to more people next year. Read more about our strategy for change, Take The Lead’s 4 keys to leadership parity, here.