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Why we should elect women into public office

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The majority of my work with Emerge Massachusetts these last couple weeks has been with the Alumnae Committee. The organization is creating and sending out a graphic of all its alumnae running for office in 2017. And because one of my roles is alumnae engagement, I had to reach out to the women we already knew were running to confirm the office they are seeking in addition to their election date. The general election date for many women is November 7, 2017, yet some races have come to a close and out of those, Emerge MA alumnae have won 15 out of 17 opportunities—that’s an 88 percent success rate, which can be attributed to the intensive training these women receive. These women enter elections with the knowledge and tools necessary to form effective and strategic campaigns that are multifaceted and consider the complexity of what it means to run for public office.

As it relates to the field of public policy, women receive training pertaining to a general knowledge of the issues, communication, and how to develop a message. These three specific components connect to public policy given the future role that many of these women will maintain as policy practitioners, and as elected officials that have a say and strong influence on the implementation of initiatives formed by themselves and fellow public officials, or upon the demand and vote of their constituents.

Democratic women trained through Emerge MA are well-versed on public policy issues that impact their local precincts and larger issues facing the state and country, which undoubtedly sets them apart from their opponents, especially those new to politics. Even women new to politics who complete the six-month training leave the program with a baseline knowledge imperative for being a compelling and fit civic leader.

Women are exposed to various methods of communication to adequately express their policy positions and plans to ensure consistent and precise messaging. These techniques include the ability to answer tough questions on the spot and guidelines for how to be a stronger public speaker. The work of Emerge is intentionally suited to prepare women to be confident about their policy positions, to be unwavering in their pursuit of upholding a shared Democratic platform in the state of Massachusetts.

In an Alumnae Committee meeting earlier this week, it was impressive listening to women introduce themselves based on the public office they hold or the position they are currently running for, ranging from City Councilor or Alderman, to State Representative. If there is one thing I will be taking away from this organization, it is the belief that we need more women in public office to support and advocate for policies that directly impact the well-being of women.

So why elect women?

Elect women because even though women make up 51 percent of the population in Massachusetts, they only occupy 25 percent of the state legislature. Massachusetts has never had a woman governor and it took the state up until 2013 to elect its first woman State Senator: Elizabeth Warren. Elect more women into office not only because they are severely underrepresented, but also because research shows that there are gendered differences in the ways that women lead, negotiate, and feel about running for office.

Generally speaking, women are more prone than men to collaborate and compromise when faced with challenging situations to reach viable solutions and consensus (Kassar and Katz, 2016). The “women and peace” thesis, for example, suggests that a respect for women in power and a concern for the status of women often substantially influences important aspects of the states in which they live (Hudson et al., 2009). Specifically, “the physical security of women is strongly associated with the peacefulness of the state, the degree to which the state is of concern to the international community, and the quality of relations between the state and its neighbors” (Hudson et al., 2009). This argument regards national security, yet it can be applied to a local and state government and makes the case for the significance of treating women on par with their male counterparts, and for the efforts of Emerge MA, this means recruiting and training more women to enter politics—a traditionally male-dominated field.

Nationally recognized expert, and Emerge America Advisory Board member, Jennifer Lawless, finds that despite cultural evolution and society’s changing attitudes toward women in politics, women still find this endeavor less attractive and feasible than men do. I have heard Emerge MA’s Executive Director, Ryanne Olsen, repeat this statement over and over again: it takes a woman roughly seven times to be asked to run for office before she begins to think about seriously doing so, whereas a man hardly has to think twice about it.

We must elect more women into public office because they have a unique understanding of the issues facing their communities and nation as well as the needs for policy areas such as health care, transportation, and education. All of this is to say that if you know a Democratic woman interested in Massachusetts politics or who is qualified for public office, please consider recommending her to apply to the Emerge MA Class of 2018. More information can be found at emergema.org!

 

Published On: August 17, 2017 |
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