Originally published on Medium, Monday, November 5 / Election Day 2017 is today, Tuesday, November 6
Tomorrow, voters in small towns across America, in 59 of the 100 largest cities, and in thirty-three states will head to the polls and elect new leaders who will make choices that affect our everyday lives. And voters will likely see a lot of unfamiliar names — many of them belonging to women — on the ballot this year.
Imagine what would happen if every woman on the ballot tomorrow got elected. Every. Single. One.
At VoteRunLead, the nonpartisan nonprofit I founded that trains women across the country to run for state and local office, we’ve seen a surge of women (approaching 10,000!) raising their hands since the 2016 election. Our “Run As You Are” message is resonating with women of all backgrounds who aren’t waiting for permission to take power. The good news is many of these women will be on the ballot tomorrow, and many more in 2018 and in 2020. The not-so-good news? We need at least 200,000 more of them to reach 50 percent female representation in all levels of government.
Whether or not a woman chooses to run is deeply personal, but the environment for ALL women is the same: deeply ingrained sexism, unacknowledged and gendered cultural roles, and stigma surrounding women in power remain significant barriers that stall the pace of change. At the rate we’re going, it’ll be a few hundred years before our country reaches gender parity locally and nationally.
But we have an important opportunity tomorrow to accelerate progress. When you head to the voting booth, you’re not just picking who runs your town. You’re choosing who leads the future.
We have a chance to make history and elect a wave of women into public office.
I can hear you saying, “I can’t just vote for a candidate because she’s woman.” I get that. But I’m asking you to envision a country run by women. I’m asking you to imagine that all 53 women running in Virginia get into the statehouse and start making change. I’m asking you to consider what an influx of female leaders would mean for future generations. Historically, we’ve seen the impact that a surge of women leaders can bring: 1992’s “Year of the Woman” led to tangible and better policy outcomes for women and families.
We have a chance to make history again. And if that’s not reason enough, here’s five more:
- When women set the agenda, everyone’s better off. Trusting women — particularly women of color — to shape our collective policy decisions is the only way to disrupt the systematic inequality we’re seeing play out everywhere from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. Because the truth is, women carry the water on issues like pay equity, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. These aren’t just “women’s issues” — strong policies in this arena fuel a safer world and a stronger economy for men and boys, too.
- Women in office work harder for women and families. Issues like health care, civil rights, and education get more attention from female lawmakers. A 2012 study of female governors showed that they “devote more agenda attention to social welfare policy than their male colleagues.” We need more women in the room when important decisions are made about everything from school regulations to breastfeeding protections.
- Representation matters: you’ve got to see it to be it. Women are still vastly underrepresented in the halls of government. Too many local councils have no women on them, like in Fort Wayne, Indiana’s second-largest city. We’re at least 100 years away from gender parity in Congress, and men currently hold 75 percent of state legislative seats. Imagine hundreds of newly elected women inspiring the next generation of girls to lead!
- Women get sh*t done. With trust in our government institutions continuing to erode, studies prove that women actually make more effective lawmakers than men and are more willing to work across party lines than their male counterparts. Women also have a better track recordof advocating for their constituents.
- Finally, we’ve got to break old stereotypes that keep women and minorities on the sidelines. Prejudiced notions of social roles keep us unheard and underserved — just ask the 95 percent of women who told us that they don’t think female candidates are treated fairly. Not convinced that discrimination exists in 2017? VoteRunLead alumna and two-term Eau Claire, Wisconsin, City Councillor Catherine Emmanuelle was banned from her rightful seat on the dais simply for being a new mother. As the youngest person and first Latina to hold her seat, Catherine is fighting back. We need more “firsts” and “onlys” like her to shake up the system and create true belonging in politics for all kinds of people.
For our part, VoteRunLead has trained thousands of women to run since the 2016 election, and we have big plans to train 30,000 more by 2020. We’re actively imagining a future where half of the county’s leaders are women. Tomorrow, on Election Day, imagine that possibility with us when you cast your vote.