By Carolyn Ramsay, Emerge California Class of 2014
Los Angeles, America’s modern, progressive, all-trends-start-here city, has just one female elected official. Councilwoman Nury Martinez sits in chambers with 14 men three days a week to enact legislation for America’s second largest city. I am one of several women who is trying to make sure that her situation doesn’t become a trend that started here. I’m also in the Emerge California class of 2014.
This morning, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the City Council race I’m running in. The headline said: Candidates line up to succeed L.A. Councilmen Parks, LaBonge. (http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-council-races-20140120,0,1127743.stor…) The paper’s first major coverage of the March 2015 election, it ran on the front page of the Metro section.
Not to make this all about me, but they hadn’t interviewed me for the story and I’m the Chief of Staff for the popular incumbent Councilman Tom LaBonge. He has enthusiastically endorsed me to succeed him and my campaign is going well. They hadn’t interviewed any of the three other women candidates in my race either. In the coverage of the race for Councilman Parks’s seat, neither woman candidate was quoted.
The story listed all of the candidates alphabetically and quoted two men in each race.
This is a subtle thing. If I hadn’t been a reporter for 18 years before going into public service, I might not have thought twice about it. As a journalist, I knew I would have found a way to balance the quotes in the story. It wasn’t right.
Big city politics is a rough business. Anyone running for office must accept that people will ignore you. They will overlook you. They may also be vicious and unfair. Programs like Emerge are vitally important because they teach women what to expect and how to respond.
The very subtle slights are sometimes harder to address because no one wants to seem petty. Regardless, you have to speak up. The essence of the job is speaking up anyway, for the public and for your ideals. You have to speak up for yourself, too, and a lot of women are probably sick of having to continually point out oversights in this day and age. It is 2014, for crying out loud. The whole business of it is boring and exhausting.
But, actually no. That’s not true. In practice, it is invigorating and empowering. Emerge California is all about stepping up and speaking out.
My first call this morning was to the Los Angeles Times.