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March is National Women’s History Month. The theme for 2016, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union

Mar 04, 2016 11:55PM ● By Paul Spear

March is National Women’s History Month. The theme for 2016, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union

National Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month, and it’s got me feeling humbled. The theme for 2016, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government,” allows us to acknowledge and appreciate the dedication and gifts women have given to the progress of our democracy. This theme also gives us a chance to encourage more women to run for office, because more women leaders will only contribute to forming a more perfect union.

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) became the first woman elected to Congress; she served in the 65th and, 24 years later, the 77th sessions. She was a trailblazer for women to aspire to public service by showing other women they had a place in higher elected offices.

In 1967, Barbara Jordan first made history as the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate. She did it again in 1973 when she was the first southern black woman to be elected to Congress and to deliver a keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

In 2007, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) made history by becoming the first female Speaker of the House, the highest office a woman has ever held in this country; she was Speaker until 2011. Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein said the 114th Congress under Pelosi was “one of the most productive Congresses in history.” She is a living inspiration for all women and an example for effective female political leaders for generations to come. Rep. Pelosi continues to serve in Congress as the House minority leader.

But I would have to say that my favorite female politician would be former state Senator Christine Kehoe, who broke barriers as San Diego’s first openly gay elected official. Before following her to the state Assembly, I worked for Christine for several years on her City Council staff. Her great work for San Diego and California is being honored: She’s being inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame this month! I’m so proud of my mentor and look forward to seeing the great work she continues to do.

There are still great disparities in the number of women in elected office relative to our population. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women constitute only 19.4% of U.S. Congress, 24.7% of statewide elective executive offices, and 24.6% of state legislatures. Unfortunately, a so-called “ambition gap,” along with other factors, contributes to the low number of women who are interested in running for an elected office. Having prominent female leaders is not enough to inspire women to run for office. Families, teachers, friends, colleagues, coaches, and religious leaders are crucial to encouraging women to make the plunge.

This March, we can all make a difference in our perceptions of the women around us and their potential for elected office. Support from other women leaders, as well as support from the San Diego community, encouraged me to think about running for the San Diego City Council.

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