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    A Reality Check Concerning Women in State and Federal Government

    leslieThe genesis for this column was a discussion a few months ago about the dismally low number of women in elected office and how important it is to be aware of opportunities to increase those figures. We in the LGBTQ community are all too well aware of what a difference it makes to have a seat at the table, harkening the old adage that if you are not sitting at the table, you are on the menu.

    Surprisingly, very few strides have been made since 1992, the “Year of the Woman.” Representation of women in both the U.S. Congress and Senate is barely at 20 percent, and even here in “liberal” California, the numbers are surprisingly the same. There are several organizations working to improve that representation.her

    EMILY’S List, for example, has been at the forefront of this issue for decades. EMERGE trains Democratic women to run for office. Close the Gap is singularly focused on finding women who will run for key offices, and there are other groups as well that are focused on helping women get elected. Yet with all of these efforts to elevate the discussion regarding in-creasing the numbers of women in office, we have not ad-vanced as far as many other countries in terms of representation being more reflective of society.

    her2Studies have shown that when women are in leadership roles they govern in a more collaborative way, work towards achieving consensus, and are more willing to share credit in order to achieve goals. Now, more than ever, such traits are needed to enable us to address the opportunities and challenges before us. We need to work towards increasing the representation of women in higher office and towards representational parity.

    In California, we have been lucky to have two female Senators, both of whom hold key leadership positions. Senator Boxer, a champion of the LGBTQ community, has announced that she will not seek re-election in 2016. Kamala Harris, our current Attorney General, is well positioned to succeed in winning election to the Senate Seat. She has long been an ally of our community, and will no doubt be a strong addition to that body.

    There will not be, however, a change in numbers of women in the U.S. Senate. In California, we also have a number of extremely well-qualified women running for the State Legislature, some who have served in the Assembly and are now seeking a Senate seat, such as Nancy Skinner in the East Bay, yet we are still nowhere near numbers that reflect parity.

    So what can we do? First, simply ack- nowledging the situation helps us start to move in a better direction. Second, we need to think about “building the bench” much as the Victory Campaign has done for the LGBTQ community. Third, and obvious in its simplicity, we need to encourage greater participation in elections. The turnout numbers have been declining, a trend that must be reversed.

    Our community has always supported electing qualified women, and now we need to once again demonstrate forward thinking on that front. As a community, we know how critical these rights are, and thus fighting for better representation of women, as well as members of the LGBTQ community, is a cornerstone of ensuring that we protect the gains we have made, keep seats at the table, and move forward on an agenda that enables all to have opportunities to improve their lives. As the title of this column suggests…we are ready for her.

    Leslie R. Katz is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the co-author of the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, has served on the SF Democratic County Central Committee (as Chair, and as a general member), and serves on the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board. She is an attorney with a government law, policy and strategy practice, with a focus on emerging technologies.