Why do real women NOT run for public office?
While it all depends on whom you ask, there are probably some consistencies in the answers. When I ask a man (I’ve asked several), most of them respond that, of course, the women are busy taking care of their homes and children. When I mention that men have homes and children too, the guys seem a little stumped. If that were the only reason more women did not run for office, I would say, “then they have more discretionary time available, and have all the more reason to run.” The reality, of course, is that many women have their “homes and children” to care for, along with their jobs, their husbands, and often their parents, but they still do it all. No, I do not believe it is for lack of time, which the answer implies, or that they have to “stay home”.
Women do not run for office because they are not sure of how to go about it. Typically women do not like to jump into the middle of something without a good idea of what they are getting in to. They want to know what it looks like, what it takes to get there, and what will happen after they start. In other words, they need some training on how to run for office. They need to learn that in a partisan race, for example, they have to start in January to woo delegates for the March caucus meetings, April Conventions, and June primary elections. They need to know they need a campaign manager, a fund raiser, and some volunteers to make the campaign happen. They should understand they do not need to know all the ins and outs of the sanitation department before they are elected. That will come as they learn their job.
Often women need a little reassurance that they can be successful. Statistically, the same percentages of women who run for office are elected, as men who run. It is just that less women run. Women need to know they can do it. They need someone to tell them that managing the household budget, refereeing teenagers, carpooling athletes, planning 21 meals a week, nurturing preschoolers, and allocating limited time and resources to meet the family needs, are all excellent preparation activities for campaigning and serving as a public elected official.
Finally, women need to know that they are needed in public office. Many women may assume that gender equality has been achieved, and there is nothing left to do. After all, this is the 21st century. In spite of the huge strides made in the last 1oo years, there is not gender parity in many areas of public life, including politics. Even though Utah had the first female state senator in the country, we are now 43rd of 50 states in number of women in our state legislature, at 17%. Coincidentally there are also only 17% of women in Congress. There is much work left to do and women can and must step up to do it.
Real Women Run Executive Committee