Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A path to public service: Ensuring women have a seat at the table

March 29, 2017 Nancy Bocskor

Bloomberg Government regularly publishes insights, opinions and best practices from our community of senior leaders and decision-makers. This column is written by Nancy Bocskor, President of the Nancy Bocskor Company.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reminds people, there are 513,000 elected officials in the United States.  Yes, you read that correctly. You can even run for Mosquito Board in Florida (just remember:  you’re killing mosquitoes not representing them.) Yet most voters are focused solely on the White House and Congress, which account for just 537 people, including the Vice President.  State and local elected officeholders make thousands of decisions that have an effect on the daily lives of women, men and families.

We need women at the political table but can’t expect them to all eat the same meal.  Most women want a buffet of choices – each and every one of us has our own values and opinions on the many issues facing our community and our country.

Passiongood or badwithout a plan is just noise.  And there’s far too much noise right nowwhich is unfortunate because one of the best skills women bring to the table is collaboration.

Marie Wilson, founder of The White House Project, summed it up best in 2004 in the title of  her seminal book, “Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything.” Yet studies show that the pinnacle of most women’s elected leadership is in college, as sororityor student bodypresident. Men, however, tend to move home, start careers and run for elected office at a much earlier age.

Why is there a political leadership gap? And why does the United States rank 73rd (out of 144 countries surveyed) in women’s political participation in the 2016 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report?

The answers are complex:  a recent Pew Foundation survey finds that the “confidence gap” between boys and girls starts as early as age six, and many countries establish quotas for women in government. Others cite family responsibilities and the overall negative tone of elected politics.

The bottom line:  as astronaut Sally Ride said, “You can’t be what you don’t see.”

Women hold just 20% of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and just under 25% of seats in statehouses.  That’s not a lot of women to emulate as role models in political leadership positions. Studies indicate women want to achieve change in their communities, but don’t have a clear vision about where to start.

On April  7, I’ll be joined by political participation experts Susannah Wellford, Founder of Running Start, Erin Vilardi, Founder of Vote Run Lead, and Trey Richardson, Managing Partner of Sagac Public Affairs,  to give a presentation on, “A Path to Public Service.” The panel, hosted by Women in Government Relations,  will provide strategies to ensure women have a seat at the table – and are fully capable of pulling up their own chair.  They just need the steps to harness their dreams and a plan with achievable steps to success.

“A Path to Public Service” offers a road-map for women to follow that includes increasing civic engagement and maximizing non-profit activities – with the ultimate goal of running for elected office. With this presentation, women walk in with a dream —  and walk out with a plan to facilitate change in their communities. It’s time for you to pull up a seat at the table of public service.

To register for this event or learn more about Women in Government Relations please visit wgr.org.