Women in Office
Women make up fewer than 3 in 10 elected officials
It’s not exactly taxation without representation, but something just doesn’t sit right about the fact that the Common Council of the largest city in Wisconsin has no female representation.
African-American, yes. Latino, yes. But no women.
A recent study by the Wisconsin Women’s Council found that women constitute about 29% of all elected officials across the state on city councils, school boards and other elected political bodies.
The Journal Sentinel’s Scott Williams noted that the study doesn’t say whether women aren’t running for office or if they’re running and losing.
We think that mostly they’re not running. In the April 1 general election, four of 35 candidates for Milwaukee municipal offices are women. All are challenging incumbents. On the Milwaukee County ballot, women are running for judge, county executive and supervisor. Of five female incumbents on the 19-member County Board, three have challengers. In all, women make up nine of 31 candidates on the county slate.
Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, the highest-ranking female elected official in the state, distinguishes between the different perspectives women offer and the problem with treating them differently when they run for office.
“It’s a rough-and-tumble, unappealing thing to do, the way campaigns are run today,”she says. That sentiment was echoed by former County Supervisor Kathy Arciszewski, who said “politics can be cruel.”
Lawton says women “bring a unique perspective by definition — because we’re the ones who bear the children.” She says this means society needs to encourage more women to pursue public service.
Seeing other women in positions of leadership is a start. But right now, it’s a bit hard to find them around here. New Berlin and Port Washington share Milwaukee’s dubious distinction of having all- male common councils.
It’s encouraging that two groups focused on getting women into politics recently established a presence in Wisconsin. Emerge and the White House Project focus on encouraging and training women for political leadership.
Women are no leadership panacea. And this editorial is not an endorsement for every female candidate locally. But there is no doubt that many astute, community-minded women in Milwaukee would make fantastic local representatives. It’s just that not many of them run for office. Let’s encourage more of them to do so.