America’s greatest weapon is a secret many men have spent their lives working to suppress. Historians overlook it. Men who were present deny they saw it. And as suddenly as this mysterious force appears whenever needed, it seems to vanish into the mists of secrecy and denial afterwards. Only now, in the era of Donald Trump, do we finally seem ready to speak the name of our invisible and oft-forgotten heroes and call upon them for help.
I’m talking about women.
Ladies, you know what I mean. When things feel like they are crumbling at home or at the office, we step up. We do what has to be done, regardless of recognition or reward. This is true in our daily lives and has been true throughout the history of our country.
When America needed a labor force at home to fuel our march to victory in World War II, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers stepped up. When we needed the brain power to send the first Americans to space, African-American women worked tirelessly in the shadows to perform mathematical calculations by hand that made the impossible possible. In 1992, in the wake of the Anita Hill hearings in an all-too-familiar cultural moment when the forward march of feminism and progress seemed frighteningly uncertain, an unprecedented number of women took back our power by stepping up to run for office, and two dozen women were elected to first terms in the U.S. House.
Today, with our Constitution and democracy in crisis, women are coming to the rescue once again. This cycle, women are activated in record numbers: running for office up and down the ballot, mobilizing their communities, and voting. Rising up from the constant trauma we are forced to relive day after day in the Trump era, women across the country are saying enough is enough and stepping up to change the status quo.
According to Emily’s List’s latest public numbers, over 42,000 women have contacted them about running for office in 2018 — a massive increase from the previous record of 920 women during the 2016 cycle. And not only are we stepping up as candidates, we are running campaigns that seek to engage people differently. Women candidates are often the early adopters of new technology (much of which has been created by companies with female founders) available to progressive campaigns – and these tools tell an incredible story of the momentum in this cycle.
Swayable, founded by Valerie Coffman, reported that 73 percent of the candidates they’ve worked with so far in 2018 are female, and BallotReady, co-founded by Alex Niemczewski and Aviva Rosman, reported that of all candidates running for office this November, 37.6 percent are women. And these women are running different kinds of campaigns in order to connect with their voters and find better, more hopeful, more unifying paths to political change.
These candidates are making women’s issues a top electoral priority. Data collected by Avalanche Strategies, founded by Tovah Paglaro, shows that gender pay equity is a top issue ahead of the midterm elections. Among union members, economic inequality is the third most important issue for voters, and when asked in open-ended format what the most important part of inequality is, the number one response was gender pay equity—far outstripping minimum wage, blaming the rich, et cetera.
Public support for fair and equitable treatment of women transcends party lines. Avalanche data shows that soft conservative suburban women are mad about the treatment of women and expect better of their leadership. Sixty-seven percent of suburban woman agree that women are treated worse than men and that this is a significant problem. Tapping into this passionate support for fair and equitable treatment of women could alter the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections.
The road for women in this country has been paved with injustice, abuse, and oppression. We’ve walked down that road with courage and grace and have succeeded over and over nonetheless. That tenacity has never been more important that it is today. Women are paving a new road forward.
Betsy Hoover is co-founder of Higher Ground Labs and a Founding Partner at 270 Strategies.