Many of my previous articles have focused on women and their careers, women in startups and work at home women. A lot of my focus has been on women in engineering, business, and technology, but I recently realized there is another segment of professional women I’ve been ignoring – women in politics. With this article I am not campaigning for anyone nor am I publicly announcing my support for any of the women that I’m mentioning. I would like to bring attention to those who are putting themselves out there for the public sector, and learn more about what’s important to them.
American Women Leaders
I’d like to start with what is going on locally for me, in the city of LA. Los Angeles is a large, spread-out mix of many smaller cities and neighborhoods, and (surprisingly and not so surprisingly) it has never been served by a female mayor. I attended an event ‘LA Women in Business’, hosted by my UCLA classmate, Amy Yanow, at her business Golden Road Brewery a few weeks ago. I got to hear Wendy Greuel speak and share her thoughts about women in business. It was a fun night – there was a mix of classmates and people from the community that I didn’t know, and we got to sample food and beer from Golden Road. It also felt good to hear people talk about the things they wanted to improve in LA, including making it easier for people to start and sustain small businesses.
Of course as a woman I am proud that a fellow female is aiming for the top government post in LA. Wendy is currently serving as the City Controller and the LA’s chief auditor and financial watchdog. She has worked for former mayor Tom Bradley and became deputy to the mayor herself. Her priority is education especially for the children. She is an LA native, attended LA public schools, and graduated from UCLA.
So after listening to Wendy, I wanted to learn more about the level of involvement women have in local politics. As I was searching for the statistics of women in local politics I came across this site on Center for American Women and Politics or CAWP. There are 1,248 mayors for cities with more than 30,000 population, and 217 of those are women – 17.4%. Those numbers seem similar to other fields/jobs that have been traditionally held by men. The percentages are a bit lower for the 100 largest cities, at just over 10% with female mayors. There are a few other California cities with female mayors – Ashley Swearengin of Fresno and Jean Quan of Oakland. They both have been said to have strong personalities that make them fit for the political arena.
Annise Parker is running for re-election this year as Mayor of Houston, Texas, the 5th most populated city in the United States. This will be her third mayoral election (and in reading up on her, I learned that she went to the same university and lived in the same dorm that my little brother currently does – Jones College at Rice University). Houston has been doing pretty well under her watch – it was voted “America’s Coolest City” by Forbes and the “7thBest Place in the World to Visit in 2013” by the New York Times.
History of Women in the Senate
Though the numbers still remain small, there is a bit of history to women being involved at the federal level of politics. The first woman senator (in 1922!) was Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia who was appointed to fill in a vacancy and only served for 24 hours. Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas was the first woman elected to the Senate. She was also appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, US Senator Thaddeus Caraway. But – she won in the 1932 elections, and was then reelected in 1938. There have been 44 women to serve in the Senate. This is a very small proportion from the whole figure which makes me admire these fellow women more.
US First Ladies
Of course one of the most famous female politicians is Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of former President William Jefferson Clinton. Following her years as First Lady, she became a senator from 2001 to 2009. She then became the 67thUS Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 under President Barack Obama. She holds a few records in history being the first US First Lady to run for a public office and the first female senator to represent New York. She is also the first former first lady to serve in another president’s cabinet. And, I’m guessing there is more to come.
Current First Lady Michelle Obama has done quite the job of combining her many roles in life – being a lawyer, public servant and a mom to two growing daughters.
Thoughts to Ponder
What do these women have that makes them pursue a political career, which has long been dominated by men? Is it their family background that influences them a lot? Some of the women I’ve mentioned had fathers and husbands in the political arena. Is it their education and understanding of the law and becoming a lawyer that makes them want to implement these on a local or national level? Is it their love for the country that makes them want to serve millions of people not thinking about their own selves anymore? And what will it take to get more women to throw their hats in the ring in future elections?