By Cynthia Richie Terrell on December 07, 2018
(Mary Hughes and I met to conspire at the Claremont Hotel and soaked in this incredible sunset)
- Saturday, December 8th in Oakland FairVote's West Coast Activist Summit - a gathering of election reformers from Colorado to the Pacific!
- Sunday, December 9th in Oakland FairVote's Champions of Democracy Awards honoring incredible election reformers from across the US
- Monday December 10th in San Francisco FairVotes's Moonshot to Save Democracy - an intimate gathering to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The Friday before election day, Carol Miller — soon to be elected as the next U.S. representative for the 3rd Congressional District — took the stage after being introduced by President Donald Trump to the crowd at Huntington Tri-State Airport for one final rally.
Standing nearby was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in West Virginia history, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who had warmed up the crowd at the start of the rally. With Miller’s election on Nov. 6, West Virginia’s five-member congressional delegation is now three men and two women.
“Having 40 percent of our congressional delegation women is, I think, a great statement about the respect that West Virginians have for women as women leaders in public service,” Capito said. “I’m just proud that West Virginia is one of those states that have broken through that barrier.”
Miller, a Republican from Huntington, is a six-term member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. First elected in 2006, she is the majority whip for the House. She defeated state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, 56.37 percent to 43.63 percent according to unofficial vote totals from the West Virginia Secretary of State.
A great deal has been written about the pathways and barriers to women’s advancement into leadership positions. Concepts such as the glass ceiling, concrete walls, sticky floors and career labyrinths have received significant attention in research and popular media. The recent advancement of women into key leadership roles in business, higher education and government are seen by many as positive signs of change. For example, the College of William & Mary, the second oldest institution of higher education in the U.S., recently named Katherine Rowe its first-ever female president. The recent midterm elections witnessed a record 110 women elected to Congress, including several “firsts”: the first Native American woman, Muslim woman, Somali-American woman, openly LGBTQ woman, youngest woman and African American woman representing Massachusetts are all headed to Congress next year.
It was Ayanna Pressley, at the airport, who finally got to me. This past November, two years after Donald Trump lost the popular vote but still won the White House, a record number of women swept to victory in the midterm elections. When they are sworn into Congress on January 3, among them will be the first Muslim congresswomen, the first Native American congresswomen, and the first African American congresswomen from New England—Jahana Hayes and Pressley. En route to freshman orientation in Washington, DC, Pressley tweeted a photo of herself at the airport, looking jaunty in an olive coat and page-boy cap. The photo caption referenced the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but Pressley advised her followers to “scratch that,” and replace Mr. Smith with “Sandy Pressley’s daughter, Mrs. Ayanna Soyini Pressley Harris.” She then thanked the late Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and a 1972 presidential candidate.
POLITICO Magazine interviewed more than 50 women for this article, seeking to understand how and why they feel shut out of the high profile and often lucrative business of politics. Most of the women spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing business—or worse, clout. They are Democrats and they are Republicans. They are pollsters, spokeswomen, television ad makers, fundraisers, direct-mail vendors, digital strategists, donors, lobbyists, candidates and even sitting members of Congress.
Over and over in interviews, they portrayed an enraging, often futile struggle to be taken seriously by colleagues and candidates alike—including by candidates who are themselves women.
“There’s a sense of shame in feeling like you’re just not wanted,” said a former Democratic fundraiser.
They frequently describe themselves as left out of the most important big picture decisions on campaigns—“they won’t let us in on the sexy part of politics” is how the former Democratic fundraiser put it. They fret about the opportunities they’ve been denied on major statewide campaigns, if not presidential races. They shudder at the thought that sexism has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) over the course of their careers. They stew about the solid advice and creative ideas they’ve offered that have been ignored in favor of those from men.
The midterms swept in a historic new class of diverse lawmakers who are due to dramatically reshape the centuries-old government body and transform not only the kinds of policies that end up being prioritized but also how Congress actually functions on a day-to-day basis.
The incoming class of lawmakers now has a record-breaking number of women, people of color, and LGBTQ representatives — and they’ve already begun to shake things up. Because so many of the new House members are mothers with small children, for example, the Capitol is now adding baby-changing tables in the members-only bathrooms and considering possible changes to its working hours, Politico reported.