November 2016 Editorial Winner

Encouraging women to run for office
Ted Streuli, The Journal Record

There will be three fewer women at the state Capitol this year. That’s bad news for half of Oklahoma’s population.
A representative democracy should, in the end, be representative. But it’s never really been that way. States were allowed to decide whether a person was allowed to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude” until the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870. But women waited even longer than slaves, having no control over their own representation until 1920.
Oklahoma and the nation are still governed mostly by white men. The U.S. is 91st among nations in its percentage of women in the Legislature, and Oklahoma is 49th among states, outpacing only Wyoming. Nationally, about 24 percent of state lawmakers are women. In Oklahoma, it’s only 13 percent.
Clearly, women are better equipped than men to represent women. And it would follow that the Legislature would better reflect Oklahoma if the gender divide was close to 50/50. But we can’t elect people who don’t run, and according to a study by American University, women are disinclined to seek public office.
The researchers identified seven reasons that women remain reluctant to throw their hats into the ring: Women are substantially more likely than men to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates; Hillary Clinton’s and Sarah Palin’s candidacies aggravated women’s perceptions of gender bias in the electoral arena; women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office; female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident, and more risk-averse than their male counterparts; women react more negatively than men to many aspects of modern campaigns; women are less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office – from anyone; and women are still responsible for the majority of child care and household tasks.
|Oklahoma can claim its place among the 27 states that have elected a woman governor, and in 1971 Oklahoma City became the largest city to date to elect a woman mayor. Nonetheless, Oklahoma’s
Senate and House of Representatives remain woefully lacking in gender parity.
2016 has been a year in which gender issues have been front and center in the political dialogue and has revealed the importance of gender diversity. The study concluded that women respond just as positively as men when they are recruited to run for office, so that must be the first step.
Pick an Oklahoma woman you admire and encourage her to run for office.

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