By Andrea Dew Steele
In her article “Why so few women in politics? Ask Sandra Fluke,” Robin Marty laments the fact that Sandra Fluke decided against running for Congress and is instead running for the State Senate. I, for one, applaud her decision. As the founder of Emerge America, an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office in 14 states, I want more than anything to see more women running for office – women of color, women from different professions, and definitely younger women. So that’s why I’m thrilled that women’s rights leader, Sandra Fluke, is running for an important legislative seat in California. There is a lot happening at the state level all over this country and she can make a real difference.
We currently have a strong Democratic majority in our California State Legislature and are able to pass some very important legislation. According to Close the Gap, a political organization dedicated to raising the number of women in office, women make up more than 50% of the population of California, but only 26% of the legislature. In 2003, the California State Legislature ranked 6th in the US for women’s representation; a decade later California has dropped to 19th in the nation.
Most (not all) of our women in Congress worked their way up from local or state office. According to Jennifer Lawless, an expert on the subject from American University who ran for Congress herself when she was just 31 years old, women often start with local or state office so they can learn the ropes. Women feel less qualified than men to run for office and serving in office helps them build up their confidence and qualifications.
Emerge America is dedicated to filling the pipeline of qualified Democratic leaders. Take Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (an Emerge Arizona Advisory Board member); at 37 she is the second youngest Democratic woman in Congress. She is young, energetic, intelligent, and is symbolic of what we need to shake things up in Washington, D.C. In fact, Congresswoman Sinema served in the Arizona state legislature for 6 years and knew a lot about the legislative process before landing in D.C.
If you want to see a woman in Congress one day – support her early in her career. Help her be successful and when she is ready to run for Congress – be there for her then too.
Andrea Dew Steele is the Founder of Emerge America. The views expressed in this article are those of the author’s.