Hey ladies, get out your campaign buttons and streamers — it seems our time has come.
2013 was set to be the “Year of the Woman” for mayoral candidates, the year that we take back some kind of fair representation, one urban sprawl at a time.
In January, three of the nation's five largest cities were gearing up for mayoral races, with women front-runners leading the pack. Though Wendy Greuel, one-time favorite for the job in Los Angeles, lost out to Eric Garcetti in May, hope is still high for current Houston Mayor Annise Parker and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
These high-profile races may give the impression that women are in charge, but the reality is far from rosy. Seventeen percent of U.S. cities with populations above 30,000 have women serving as mayor. That’s 217 out of a total 1,248. Interestingly, Texas leads the pack with Annise D. Parker in Houston (ranked the fourth largest city in the country) and Betsy Price in Fort Worth (ranked 17th).
Founded in 1985, EMILY’s List, a political action committee that raises funds for Democratic women candidates, has worked to elect 101 Democratic women to the House, 19 to the Senate, 10 governors, and over 500 women to state and local offices.
In this auspicious year, the PAC has backed eight pro-choice women candidates for municipal office.
"It's about building the pipeline, getting women to run for local offices because we know they'll run for higher office," Marcy Stech, the group's press secretary, told NPR.
Today, women make up 18% of the House and 20% of the Senate, a record number, but still grossly unrepresentative of what is really half the country’s population.
Though 2012 was hailed as a groundbreaking year for women’s representation, NPR pointed out that women have vacillated between 20 and 24% in state legislatures for the past two decades.
Why is it taking so long for women to catch up? It is not, as some may think, that we are too busy agonizing over how to balance our careers with the pressures of family life.
Apparently, we care too much.
As Mary Ann Lutz, mayor of Monrovia, California, told NPR, voters still expect women to only focus on "quote, unquote, women's issues." Read: health care, education, family planning...all those things that only women need.
To get elected, she added, women need to consciously adopt a firm and clear stance on what are traditionally thought of as male concerns: law and order. Otherwise, we’re seen as indecisive, meek, and flighty.
And no one wants Betty Draper minding the shop, no matter how great her hair is.
What’s more, political science studies continue to show that despite the shift in cultural and societal norms (because, though it sometimes doesn’t seem so obvious, the world has changed since Mad Men), women remain less likely to consider running for elected office, or even consider themselves qualified to do so.
But though the “Year of the Woman” has seen its setbacks, there is undeniably still cause for optimism. More women are running for municipal office this year than ever before. As ABC noted, City Commissioner Nan Whaley recently won a three-way mayoral primary in Dayton, Ohio with over 50% of the vote and will be facing off against A.J. Wagner; Stephanie Miner, mayor of Syracuse is up for re-election; City Councilwomen Gerrie Schipske in Long Beach, California will potentially be the first openly gay woman mayor of Southern California, while Kathy Sheehan could be a strong Democratic candidate for Albany's first female mayor.