Kathy Groob is the publisher of ElectWomen Magazine. This year, we had a credible woman run for president. We have female governors. Even the U.S. Speaker of the House is a woman. So is there still a glass ceiling for female candidates? As usual, the devil is in the details. In the case of female elected officials, the statistics tell the story:
Nineteen states have no female representation in Congress. Less than 15 percent of state legislators in Southern states are women. Only 17 percent of the members of Congress are women. Only eight states have female governors. And according to a recent study, men think about running for office twice as much as women. The motto for women in the ’70s was “We’ve come a long way, baby.” Well, in my lifetime we haven’t come all that far. In my home state of Kentucky, we elected a women governor in 1983—but in 20 years since, no woman has even run. Progress for women has been made in a few select states. Maine and New Hampshire have women running both houses of their state legislatures. In Colorado almost 40 percent of their elected state officials are now women. Other states are looking for solutions. Wyoming recently lost 26 percent of their female elected officials—but last week held a conference titled “Building Equality in the Equality State,” looking for a way back. South Carolina will hold a statewide women’s political conference in May. National women’s organizations and political caucuses are becoming heavily involved in women’s campaigns and are holding campaign training workshops across the country. Equal representation for women is not just about fairness—it’s good public policy. Women have a more collaborative and harmonious work style and have a positive impact on public policy. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, states with higher levels of women officials have created more women-friendly policies in the areas of health care, child welfare, domestic violence, child support, unemployment benefits and education. The organization describes the impact women on the legislative agenda as, “in a nutshell, very strong.” So the real question is not why but how can we get more women to run and get elected? The answer: resources, mentoring, information, training and support, especially by women. When women support other women, we all win.Kathy Groob is a business executive, former elected city official and Democratic candidate for the Kentucky Senate. Among work with many women’s organizations, she has served as a mentor to several women in the workplace and was a finalist in the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky awards program.