Our vote plays a large role in each presidential election because we turn out to vote in higher numbers than our male peers. As Catherine Rampell noted last year in her piece for the Washington Post, “We have in every presidential election since 1980, and the gap has widened over time. In 2012, the difference in turnout was nearly 4 percentage points (63.7 percent of ladies voted vs. 59.8 percent of gents). The disparity was more than twice as large if you look just at those who have never been married. Girls, it seems, really do run this world.”
If we are such a large factor in selecting those who hold seats in office, we really must make sure we are voting in candidates who hold our best interests at heart. Remember that these candidates spend a lot of time listening to lobbyists, the same ones who represent companies that actively participate in the gender pay gap.
Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. – Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Of course, it is pretty hard for the average working female’s voice to hold the same weight as some big wig lobbyist in Washington or fat cat on Wall Street, and we know there has been endless discussion about cleaning up the messy relationships between lawmakers and special interest groups.
The best way to spark change is to also be on the other side of the election process. Sure we have male advocates and allies that support our causes, but who better to fight for our needs than one of our own? According to Rutgers’ Center for American Women And Politics, this year 78 women hold statewide elective executive offices across the country; women hold 25.0% of the 312 available positions. There are a number of reasons that women don’t run for political office: family obligations, work flexibility, financing and even confidence. Other reasons also reflect many of the issues we face in the workplace like being more hesitant to ask for a raise, funnel our way to leadership positions and stand firm through negotiation processes.
At Lioness we encourage our female founders to step into arenas where less of us are represented, whether that be venture capital discussions or male-dominated tech events. We can’t ignore that the political landscape affects our businesses. Former Lioness writer Gerri Lazarre covered the topic back in July: “The most important thing to remember for every entrepreneur or business owner is that our common thread is government; we’re all impacted and influenced by government laws and rules. It does not matter what industry you are in, the product you sell, or the service you perform, all businesses are regulated in some way, shape or form through laws. This means that resources are being pooled in through various means to manage the affairs of the industry in which you serve, to protect your business interest and those of consumers.
As an entrepreneur, being informed and understanding issues that impact your business allows an opportunity to have influence on resources and possibly form a movement around an issue that brings about change at a large scale.”
What should we do?
We need to use our powerful voter turnout to our advantage. If more of us run for office (including local and state-wide), we have a larger pool of qualified women candidates to choose from and have a better opportunity at driving change on the things that matter most to us like women’s health, equal access to government contracts, childcare, economic equality, leadership and challenges facing women of color. We need to encourage women with the background, intelligence and fortitude to run for available seats and then put our energy, money and networking prowess to work to make sure they get on the ballot.
We are happy to see that more women are also stepping into lobbyist roles. The Hill did a nice job of covering this rising trend last year, reporting that, “While men still outnumber women on K Street by a significant margin, the environment has changed dramatically from just over a decade ago, when a prominent lobbyist felt she couldn’t successfully open a firm without a man’s name on the masthead.”
Where do we start?
There are programs to help women ease into politics. I was an inaugural participant in the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI), hosted by the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. These types of programs teach political structures, legislation, the electoral process and how to run a campaign.
Check your local listings to find organizations and groups dedicated to the cause. If you are looking for something online, iknowpolitics.org is a great place to start. The International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iknow) is an interactive network of women in politics who share experiences, resources, advice and collaborate on issues of interest.
Gather your sisters in business together and talk possibilities. See what political seats will be opening up and when. Nominate women for consideration. If skills are lacking, use this time to train, delve into local issues and understand voters’ needs so you can develop a stance and a platform. Encourage one another to run. Political campaigns can be taxing both financially and emotionally, so establishing a support system is crucial. Get in the game and utilize our political power. Stop waiting on some man in office to see your issues the way that you and your fellow women do.
2 to 1
At 85 and older, the approximate ratio by which women outnumbered men in 2013.
As actress Taraji P. Henson said in the film Smoking Aces, “If we all, sisters everywhere – black, white, brown and yellow – put our shit down one time, a unified front, you know the female race mobilized, baby, moving as one …” Girl, we would be UNSTOPPABLE.
You know the drill. Hit us up in the comment section below to let us know your thoughts and how we can help you.