When Women Lead

Why do we need women in public office?

This past fall, I was elected to the Washington, D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. Running for this seat, just as it is for many women, wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. My story isn’t any different. I was approached by two active commissioners before the election and encouraged to run for the vacant seat in my district. Even still, I was unsure. For me to declare my candidacy,  It took asking a third person if they thought I should run. With a resounding endorsement, I threw my hat in the ring. I’ve long been active in my community, but with the urging of these three people, I knew this was an empowering and meaningful channel to enact change in my community.  

A. Tianna being sworn into to her Advisory Neighborhood Commission

My candidacy isn’t very different than the candidacy of the women who run for office across the country.  When women are considering political office, it three different people telling them to run to push them over the edge toward candidacy. This shows in the number of women who sit on the panel. Despite the city of Washington, DC having the highest percentage of women in the country, only two of the eight (25 percent) commissioners on my neighborhood commission are women.

This isn’t out of the norm with the rest of the country.

One in five

Across the country, in spite of being more than half the population, women consistently hover around 20 percent of elected office at all levels. Only one in five members of  Congress  are women, and 20 percent of mayors and 25 percent of state legislators are women. This gap in representation has persisted for decades.

Why does it matter to have more women in office?  

From neighborhood commissions, to utility boards, to President, our elected officials decide a number of issues related to health, families, energy, lands, and everything in between. More than 52 percent of men recently surveyed said they don’t see any impact in their lives if women have affordable access to birth control. But when asked if more women were in public office if the debate would continue around these issues they quickly answered no. We need people with diverse experiences making legislation and decisions that impact the communities they serve.

But the impact of women in public office doesn’t end with “women’s issues.” Regardless of party affiliation, a recent report by Rachel’s Network found that women have voted more consistently in favor of environmental protections and policies than men have over the past 25 years in both the House and Senate.

Now more than ever

Support for clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action, and public health should not be up for debate. But as we near the 100 day mark of a new Administration, we’ve seen attacks to the Clean Power Plan, rollbacks to environmental justice regulations, and toxics control. It has never been more urgent to get a pipeline of leaders into decision-making positions to transform our policies and take action on the local and national levels.

That is why this week after the People’s Climate March, the Sierra Club, Emily’s List, and Rachel’s Network and others  are convening top pro-choice, pro-environment women to gear up for their own political campaigns.

Running for office has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. Don’t wait for three people to tell you to run. Our training on April 30th will help more women like me make a difference in their communities.  


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