Each weekday, after work and just before dark, there is a small window during which—as a candidate for a House seat in Connecticut’s state legislature—I have a precious few hours to knock on doors and introduce myself to voters.
It isn’t uncommon for me to have my 3-year-old daughter, Parker, in tow. The reason: I can’t always afford a babysitter.
Don’t get me wrong—Parker is adorable and has probably helped me win a vote or two. But when she is with me, I can’t help but be distracted. By the time we walk hand-in-hand up steps that are seemingly endless to a preschooler, I am able to greet about half as many voters as I can when she isn’t forced to tag along. In retail politics, that’s a very high cost.
Like most working parents, I rely on a patchwork of childcare options: pre-kindergarten and after-school care when my husband and I are at work, family and friends when they’re available to pitch in, and babysitters for an occasional night out.
But campaigning is like having a second full-time job. It requires long hours in the evenings and on weekends to connect with voters and attend community meetings and public events.
That’s why, like other candidates across the country who also happen to be moms, I’m fighting for the right to use campaign funds to cover childcare expenses when I’m on the trail.
This summer, I petitioned Connecticut’s State Election and Enforcement Commission to use public campaign funds in this way. They said no.
I’m appealing the decision because I know I’ll need more childcare help in the final months of my race. But this isn’t just about me; there is something much bigger at stake. We can’t have equity in our society if we don’t have it among our elected officials. If my appeal is successful, it sets a precedent for all candidates, regardless of gender, and then hopefully becomes law.
Childcare, of course, is needed by men as well as women. Yet research shows that working moms spend nearly double the amount of time caring for their children that working dads do—an average of 14 hours a week compared with eight hours. Clearly, the burden of watching the kids or finding a suitable caregiving arrangement often falls on women who work, leaving all too many with terrible choices.
In certain zip codes across the country, there are so few daycare centers that some experts have started calling these areas “childcare deserts.”Meanwhile, where care is available, it is often exorbitant, outstripping the combined cost of what households spend on food and transportation and, in a majority of states, even the expense of housing and tuition at a public college. Indeed, childcare in the U.S. is among the highest-priced in the world.
The upshot is that millions of working mothers have had to quit a job, not take a job, or substantially change their job because of childcare problems.
Keeping well-qualified, productive women out of the labor force in this way is bad for the economy and for society.
But it’s particularly harmful when a lack of childcare is an obstacle for those of us trying to assume public office. Working moms with young children like me promise to bring an important—and largely overlooked—perspective to the political arena.
We understand, in the most personal way, the need for policies that promote early childhood education, affordable healthcare, resources for children with exceptionalities, pay equity, a woman’s right to choose, earned family medical leave—and, yes, affordable, high-quality childcare.
But we can’t elect more moms to local, state, and national office unless our laws—campaign and otherwise—adequately support them and their families. We have to provide opportunities for non-wealthy candidates to enter and compete on a level playing field in electoral politics.
Helping to lead the charge is Liuba Grechen Shirley, a congressional candidate from New York, and the mother of two small children. She recently persuaded the Federal Election Commission to let her use campaign funds for childcare. The decision, she said, was “a game changer.”
Unfortunately, the federal ruling does not apply to the thousands of women who are competing for state and local office. It has, however, opened the door—albeit with mixed results.
Women candidates in Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, and Wisconsin have successfully petitioned state regulators to allow them to use campaign funds to cover childcare costs. In Iowa and my state, Connecticut, we’ve been turned down. And in New York and Massachusetts, two bills that would have changed the laws to allow parents to use campaign funds for childcare have been stalled.
No matter what happens on the childcare front, this is already a historic year for women in politics. A record number of us are vying for elected office, propelled largely by the misogynist-in-chief in the White House.
But what is also notable, if less buzzed about, is the degree to which so many women candidates are embracing motherhood.
Zephyr Teachout, the 46-year-old who just lost her bid to be New York attorney general, campaigned while pregnant and launched an ad featuring her getting an ultrasound exam. Two gubernatorial candidates, Krish Vignarajah of Maryland and Kelda Roy of Wisconsin, have both run ads that featured them breastfeeding their infant daughters.
And Jennifer Wexton, a congressional candidate, just launched a new ad tracking her career—and her kids sitting in carpool over the years. “As a prosecutor I put criminals in jail during the day,” she says in the opening voiceover “and changed diapers at night.”
Without a doubt, the “pink wave” is coming, and plenty of us moms are proud to be part of it. I just wish that I had more of a choice as to whether to bring my little girl along for the ride, especially when it’s past her bedtime.
Beginning next year, California's corporate board rooms will be required to take on a different look.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed landmark legislation that will require all publicly traded companies with headquarters in California to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. The minimum requisite will increase to two by the end of 2021.
Brown's comments appeared to reference last week's Senate hearings involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault when both were teenagers.
The FBI has since opened a background investigation on Kavanaugh, at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Though several studies have shown companies with at least one female director perform better than their all-male counterparts, progress toward gender equality in the boardroom has been a slow slog at best.
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat from Santa Barbara who co-authored the bill, pointed out the percentage of women in California corporate boards had barely nudged up from 15.5 percent in 2013 to 16 percent this year.
“I think this is a giant step forward not just for women but also for our businesses and our economy,’’ Jackson told USA TODAY. “It’s a win-win-win.’’
Jackson said she’s optimistic other states will follow California’s lead in the same way the equal-pay bill she authored in 2015 became a template for similar legislation in most of the country.
This is, essentially, a quota that forces large companies to include women on their boards. Other countries, including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, have such quotas, but this approach to diversity is a novelty on this side of the Atlantic.
It’s an idea whose time came long ago. In California, a quarter of public companies have no women on their boards. That’s particularly egregious, but the pattern holds across the country. Among S.&P. 500 companies, 2.8 percent had zero women on their boards in 2015 and, overall, women held less than 20 percent of board seats. Less than 4 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies were held by women of color in 2016.
So far, policies for increasing board diversity in the United States have mostly consisted of asking companies to change. It hasn’t worked. The share of women on Fortune 500 boards increased less than five percentage points between 2010 and 2016. California passed a resolution in 2013 urging public companies in the state to add women to their boards by 2017, but fewer than 20 percent met the deadline.
There is, of course, a limit to what gender diversity on corporate boards can do. It won’t solve gender equality. While boards hold chief executives accountable, they remain far removed from actual workplace policies. That typically falls to high-level executives and managers (who, also, are still overwhelmingly male). There’s also no reason to think that putting more women into the top ranks trickles down into benefits for the women below them, nor that women in leadership can’t or won’t discriminate against other women. In a 2014 study of what happened after Norway implemented its gender quota for boards, researchers found no change in how many women were promoted to top positions, nor a narrowing of the gender wage gap. Female managers exhibit the same kinds of gender discrimination as male ones.
But the paltry number of women on boards is an embarrassment and a missed opportunity. In a country where women make up half the work force, it’s an outrage that they are still so rare in the boardroom. If companies don’t find the moral argument persuasive, there’s the financial incentive. A growing body of research has found that more diverse boards perform better than all-white, all-male ones.
California took a step that actually has the potential to make companies get on board with these benefits. Instead of stopping it before we can even see whether it works, critics should offer a better solution for changing the persistently pathetic numbers of women on boards or get out of the state’s way.
Women’s Political Leadership: What Will It Take?
October 15, 2018
Media executive/TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell
Journalist/Founder of What Will It Take Movements Marianne Schnall
Opening Q&A: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
Panel: Democratic Candidate for NY State Senate, District 34, Alessandra Biaggi
Dr. Kerry Healey, President of Babson College
Activist, Educator and Writer Brittany Packnett
Strategist and CNN Political Commentator Symone Sanders
Women are more activated and energized than ever before. There has been an unprecedented surge of women rising up to use their voices, run for office, and demand change. More than ever, there is a sense of urgency about the need for gender equality and diversity of all types in positions of leadership in the public, private and citizen sectors. When it comes to women in politics, the inequality is staggering. While women are half the national population, the number of women serving in political office remains startlingly low: less than 20% of Congress, 22% of the Senate, and only 6 women out of 50 governors. What will it take to have gender parity in politics? With all the serious problems facing our country and the world right now, how can we ensure that we have women’s voices and visions equally represented?
This event will explore what has held women back from the highest levels of leadership and what we can do to propel women into politics and public office. The goal of this event would be multifold: to encourage women of all generations to run for office, to support women candidates by voting and supporting their campaigns, and also offer inspiration and guidance on amplifying our own political voice, as engaged, informed citizens, to get out the vote, to effectively support the issues and causes we believe in and be heard, and find our own pathways to creating change.
The event will be organized in partnership with Marianne Schnall, journalist & author of What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power and her What Will It Take platform a media, collaboration, learning, and social engagement platform that inspires, connects, educates and engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action.
We will accompany the event with an online portal guiding voters towards sites and resources to register to vote and find their polling place, as well as groups that offer trainings on running for office (many of which are featured at the What Will It Take web site and on the advisory board), such as Running Start, She Should Run, Higher Heights, LatinasRepresent, VoteRunLead, Represent Women, IGNITE and others.
We will also be premiering a video campaign at the event: "What Will It Take to Represent Her" (a partnership between What Will It Take and Jennifer Siebel Newsom's organization The Representation Project) featuring interviews with a diversity of notable figures including Pat, Valerie Jarrett, Tarana Burke, Sophia Bush, Dolores Huerta, Tina Tchen, Gabrielle Reece, Ai-Jen Poo, Monica Ramirez, Brittany Packnett, Sarah Eagle Heart, Patrisse Cullors, Amanda Seales, Stoneman Douglas students, Larry Wilmore and others.
Polls conducted after the hearing show a public strongly divided by gender and party. But gender and party don’t tell the whole story. Our recent work suggests that among those factors are attitudes toward women — in particular, a concept that researchers call “hostile sexism.”
What is “hostile sexism”?
Hostile sexism is a set of attitudes that are antagonistic toward women and stem from a belief that women want to control men. Hostile sexists tend to think about gender as a zero-sum game, a “battle of the sexes.” When they can, hostile sexists try to elevate men over women. Social scientists often contrast this with benevolent sexism, a more protective set of beliefs about gender relations, growing from the notion that women should be cared for by men.
Women seek to gain power by getting control over men. When women complain about discrimination, they cause more problems than they solve. Many women are actually seeking special favors, such as hiring policies that favor them over men, under the guise of asking for “equality.”
Hostile sexists would typically agree strongly with statements like the ones above and disagree strongly with statements like:
There are actually very few women who get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available and then refusing male advances. Feminists are making entirely reasonable demands of men.
The full ASI includes 22 items, but we sometimes use a subset in our research, depending on data availability.
Who expresses hostile sexism?
The 2016 American National Election Study contained a subset of the ASI hostile sexism items. We combined responses to these questions, placing survey participants on a continuum from very low to very high levels of hostile sexism. About 13 percent of the survey participants scored very high, and about 17 percent very low, with the remaining 70 percent somewhere in between.
The very high hostile sexism category was nearly evenly split between men (51 percent) and women (49 percent), but varies considerably by party. Republican women and Republican men show relatively comparable levels of hostile sexism — levels that are quite different from those of independents or Democrats. Nineteen percent of GOP men and 17 percent of GOP women score high in hostile sexism; only 8 percent of Democratic men and women do.
Partisans look even more different from one another at the low end of the scale. About 6 percent of Republican men and 10 percent of Republican women hold very low levels of hostile sexism — compared with 21 percent of Democratic men and 29 percent of Democratic women.
Hostile sexism mattered in the 2016 presidential election
In a recent article, we used survey data from the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Studies, a nationally representative sample of adult Americans, to ask: Why did so many women support Trump despite his misogynistic rhetoric and well-known attitudes toward women?
We learned many white women hold hostile sexist beliefs. Even when we control for party, those beliefs help predict white women’s sustained support for Trump. We compared the effects of hostile sexism on women’s votes in 2012 and 2016, and it mattered significantly more in 2016. Other research, including work by Brian Schaffner and colleagues, found a similar pattern.--
I remain committed to reforms including ranked choice voting that will free legislators from the constant tug of electoral calculations when considering political decisions - we must change the incentives baked into the political culture & system to undo the trap of political polarization and realize the yet unmet promise of American democracy.
All my best,
P.S. I will end with this story as it may catch the attention of some members of our species in a way that nothing else will...