Women make up 50.7% of the U.S. population, yet only 18.2% of Congress is female. In Washington state,women fare slightly better: 30.6% of our legislators are female. That’s down, however, from the days when Washington led the nation with women occupying jut over 40% of legislative seats.
Men had the opportunity July 9 to support parity in government representation at our “Men for Women” event. Held at the home of Roger Nyhus, president and CEO of Nyhus Communications, the event featured a long list of male supporters: Congressman Jim McDermott, Rep. Adam Smith, Speaker Frank Chopp, Sen. David Frockt, Sen. Marko Liias, Sen. Steve Litzow, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Sen. Kevin Ranker, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, Rep. Cyrus Habib, Rep. Steve Kirby, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, Jason Bennett, Steve Breaux, Larry Brown, Parker Butterworth, Nate Caminos, Nick Federici, Bruce Gryniewski, Alex Hays, Michael Hill, Matt Isenhower, Charles Jensen, Dean Nielsen, James Paribello, Strom Peterson, Nick Petrish, Thomas Pitchford, John Schochet, Geoff Simpson, Dorian Waller, Andrew Wells, John Wyble and Adam Zukor.
“I got an immediate response,” said event organizer Emily Wicks on the support she received after contacting men about the fundraiser. About 60 supporters of both genders turned out at the event, which raised more than $6,000 for the NWPC-WA’s political action committee to support endorsed women candidates.
“We’re excited to celebrate the men who have stood by women, helped build them up, and changed the attitudes of others along the way,” Wicks said.
“Women are underrepresented and the Caucus is here to change this,” said Liz Berry, NWPC-WA president. She interviewed two featured speakers on how to get more women to run for office: Mainstream Republicans of Washington Executive Director Alex Hays and Democratic State Rep. Kris Lytton.
Women win as much as men – why don’t they run?
“I think women are intimidated by the process,” said Lytton. She added that women are also concerned about the impact on their families. Her two sons, both college students, have been supportive of her political career: “My boys are happy I’m doing my job.”
What are the Republicans doing to get women to run?
Hays said he’s observed that younger women haven’t felt the same pressures about running as previous generations of women politicians. He believes it will be easier to recruit women in the future because of that. “As time proceeds, that issue is going to become less and less problematic,” he stated.
What do women bring to the ballot that distinguishes them from men?
Lytton discussed her ability to come up with small, strategic actions to get her closer to her goal of being elected. “You have to have that drive that you really want to make a difference in people’s lives,” she observed.
What do you say to women who may be intimidated by the need to raise money?
Hays called women “hyper well-organized good fundraisers,” saying that “women have an organic advantage” in raising money because of their strength in building personal relationships.
How has having women in Olympia changed business there – or not?
“We’re the collaborators,” Lytton said of her women colleagues. But she noted that “Olympia is still a good old boys club.”
She advocated for two changes to help create a more gender-balanced legislature. “We need to start early helping (women) run for school boards, helping them run for hospital commissions,” Lytton said. Even something as simple as making a meal for a woman candidate during a campaign shows support: “It’s those really small things that make a difference.”
Lytton also advocated for child care on the campus in Olympia for working women.
As an example of how women in Olympia have had a positive impact, Hays praised former Governor Christine Gregoire for her ability to bring people together and problem solve. He also gave kudos to the NWPC-WA for its sincerity in building bipartisan relationships: “Partnerships with the NWPC are fruitful and beneficial.”
As for why it's important to have more elected women, Hays stated, “Parties should look like the people they serve.”
The evening’s final speaker, Adam Zukor, is a self-admitted political cynic who works in the non-profit world. He said he's heard that there's an Ambition Gap, but believes a lack of ambition isn't what's holding women back from running. “The problem is that politics has not earned their ambition,” he explained. He has faith that the great women he's met and heard from at the Men for Women event will change politics as we know it.
To show his support for women candidates, Zukor pledged $450 to the NWPC-WA fund. “I want to earn their ambition and show a little ambition of my own,” he said.