New Year, Old Story: Too Few Women in the Halls of (Political) Power

Dear Readers,

In the all politics is local category, I start SivesSiftings 2010 with my January blog for Today’s Chicago Woman.

Here it is:

New Year, Old Story: Too Few Women in the Halls of (Political) Power: Here’s What You Can do To Write a New and Different Chapter in 2010

Last month, Carol Marin wrote a great piece in the Chicago Sun Times: “Why Aren’t Women Running for Office,” (Read it here:,).

In her column, Carol gave us the bald facts about the paucity of women running for political office in Illinois, and she reported some of the reasons why.

Various reasons were given for this sorry state-of-affairs, including the view I expressed that, too often, women don’t make the decision to run soon enough, to be positioned with the experience, expertise, contacts, and fundraising capacity needed to make a viable run for a big office.

So, the result: In Illinois in 2010–90 years since American women got the right to vote–there is only one woman running for state-wide, State office in the Democratic Primary. [And there are only two women in the Republican Primary, and only one of 16 U.S Senate candidates, Cheryle Robinson Jackson, is female.]

By way of background, here is the pitifully, puny history of women in Illinois statewide office, as reported by the Center for American Woman and Politics, (Go to:
Lisa Madigan (D) Attorney General 2003-present
Judy Baar Topinka (R) State Treasurer 1995-2007
Corinne Wood (R) Lt. Governor 1999-2003
Loleta A. Didrickson (R) State Comptroller 1995-1999
Dawn Clark Netsch (D) Comptroller 1991-1995

And here is the complete report on Illinois women in elective office today: For instance, of 19 Members of Congress from Illinois, only four are women, and we’ve only ever had 13. (Go to:

Though two women, Toni Preckwinkle and Dorothy Brown, are now running for Cook County Board President, one of the biggest executive jobs in Illinois politics, that percentage of women, 50%, especially in a big race, is a true rarity.

In fact, aggregating the numbers across-the-board, equally, or better, qualified women don’t run for office nearly as frequently as men do–for any office, even local ones.

For instance, as to the numbers for today’s-Chicago-women in today’s-Chicago-City-Council, barely a third are women, and that number is far and away the highest it has ever been.

Nationally, the picture isn’t much better. Here is some of that not-so-pretty picture:

Since 1789 only 2% of members of Congress have been women. At the current rate of progress, it will be 2076 before women achieve equal representation.

“Current members of Congress:

“Senate -100 members -17 women

“House – 435 members – 72 women (20 of the women are from California)

“Four states have never had a woman represent them in Congress: Vermont, Iowa, Mississippi and Delaware.

“In state government, nearly 25% of elected legislators and officials are women. Many states rank far below, ranging from only 10 to 13%.

“Women serve as governor and (have led) [only] six states: Michigan, Arizona, Washington, Connecticut, Hawaii, and North Carolina.”*

*Data courtesy of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, reported by:,

You may well ask, why should I care about this? Aren’t all politicians the same-old, same-old? Do they ever really do what we really need?

Well, as a matter of fact, women officials do much, much better for women than male officials do.

By and large, it’s women officials who take the leadership on the matters women need government support for, for example: eliminating sex discrimination in employment, promoting government support for child care centers, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis hotlines, and making sure that women have equal access to the education and training needed to help them realize their full potential and build better lives.

As you can see, the bottom line is we really do need women in public office.

So, here is a list of what today’s-Chicago-women can do to advance this cause. Feel free to amend it, and share it widely. Let’s make 2010 the year today’s-Chicago-women hit this ball out of the park.

1) Learn about the campaigns affecting your neighborhood, in which women are candidates. [If you live in Cook County, this includes the race for Cook County Board President.]

2) Sign-up and get involved in those campaigns.

3) Get your friends involved in those campaigns.

4) Raise some money for your candidate(s), and ask your friends to do the same.

5) Think about women you know who could be effective, pro-women/pro-choice public officials. Encourage them to run, and tell them why it’s so important.

6) Then, make a plan!

Happy New Year!


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