The New York Times recently wrote an article about how Republican women are in crisis due to the lack of women in elected office. The article goes on to name several reasons why Republican women have suffered electorally. In Utah, we have noticed this trend for quite some time and it has dominated the discussions that I have with my Republican female friends. As we look at the 2020 political landscape, here are some New Year’s resolutions that we can add to our list to help women be more involved in politics:
- Know a woman who would be perfect for public office? Tap them on the shoulder. Dr. Susan Madsen says, “Unless (women) think they’re pretty much perfect, they don’t step forward. They need people to ‘tap’ them on the shoulder sometimes 7-8 times before they start to consider it a real option.” Women need others to suggest they run for office multiple times before their brains actually start to think of it as an option.
- Encourage the younger women around you. We have all probably asked children what they want to be when they grow up. Many girls will say veterinarian, mother or teacher. Encourage them to add politician or president to their list. Help guide them to leadership programs, scholarship opportunities and encourage them to run for student government. Encourage them to enroll them in debate.
- Support good women who do run. Women who run for office have to raise funds just like anyone else and this is difficult for all candidates! Consider donating even $5 to female candidates that you support. Not just because they are female but because you believe in them.
- Acknowledge that woman can hold an office and be a mother, wife, business owner, professional, etc. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said as recently as 2018 that, “Church members — both men and women — should not hesitate, if they desire, to run for public office at any level of government wherever they live.” Many women discount a run for political office because they are busy. Women who are mothers, wives, business owners and professionals should want to create a better community for those around them by helping shape their community through public policy.
- Consider appointing or hiring good women. Women gain the leadership skills necessary to be good elected officials by being on boards, having leadership opportunities in their careers, and serving in their communities. If you are looking to hire or are appointing someone to a board, consider the good women who have applied. As we have discussed earlier, they do not apply casually.
My experience being the only female in the Utah Republican Party leadership team has been tremendously rewarding. I find that my male counterparts value my opinion and my perspective. I see them hiring good females to leadership positions because these women are capable. Politics may not be for all women, but women can shape public policy in a very positive and pragmatic way. Supporting women in leadership positions helps to develop a pipeline that Utah will most certainly benefit from.
As we celebrate 100 years since women received the right to vote, there is nothing more important than encouraging and mentoring women to rise up and become leaders in their communities.
Kendra Seeley is the Utah Republican Party Secretary. She lives in Price, Utah, with her husband and four children.