If women want a full share of political power, they must do one thing, the leader of a women’s political organization said.
“You cannot get to 50 percent of the government if you are just 14 percent of the candidates,” Harriet Woods, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus said Tuesday in Spokane.
Recent studies show some of the conventional wisdom about women and politics isn’t true, Woods told a luncheon crowd of about 70 at the Sheraton-Spokane Hotel.
They don’t have a harder time getting elected or raising money, Woods said. Voters often say they would prefer a woman candidate over a man of equal qualifications.
“Women appeal more to independent and swing voters,” she said.
The problem is, women are far less likely to run.
Surveys show that only about one person in eight considers running for public office. But of those who say they are interested, nearly twice as many are men.
Part of the difference in willingness to run is cultural, Woods said.
“When women got the vote, most of them didn’t use it, or asked their husbands how to vote,” she said. “Politics was considered men’s business.”
Part of it reflects women’s different experiences in the workforce, she said.
“Women haven’t been mentored into understanding how the system works.”
Woods, the former lieutenant governor of Missouri and a two-time candidate for U.S. Senate from that state, said the caucus hopes to recruit and train women to run for office in Washington state.
The state already has the highest percentage of women in its Legislature, about 40 percent. The caucus hopes to encourage more women to run for local offices or seek appointed positions.
“We want to target districts with open seats. We’ve got to be smarter than running for anything and everything,” she said.
Through workshops with campaign consultants and women incumbents, the caucus wants to help women understand how power is gained and used.
But women will have to stop using gender as an excuse not to run, she said.