March to Parity

By Political Parity on March 5, 2015

For the past three decades during March, we commemorate women’s contributions to society, here at home and globally. In my children’s classrooms, they’re reflecting on history, learning about the tremendous courage of trailblazers Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride, the steadfast determination of activists Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth, and the deep care of naturalists Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, among many others. Parity appreciates the many pioneering political women – suffragists at Seneca Falls, Jeanette Rankin (first women elected to US House, 1917), and Nancy Kassebaum (first woman independently elected to US Senate, 1978) to name a few –  who often stood alone, making their mark (a mark for all women) in a sea of male colleagues.

Today’s political diversity – 20 female senators, 84 female representatives – rests upon the shoulders of countless trailblazing women. We’re spending this month looking ahead, focusing on history breakers and movement makers leading a new generation of political women in the “March To Parity.” We’re telling the stories of female political forerunners and emerging leaders through podcasts, Twitter Town Halls, Instagram, and quotable portraits. Check back often and add your voice and stories of the women who inspire you.

Political Parity was established in 2009 on the premise that it would take the collective resources of progressive, conservative, and nonpartisan women’s organizations to dramatically reshape the face of American politics. During the past six years, we’ve been awed and inspired by the women we’ve met along the way, serving in elected and appointed positions, both at the helm and behind the scenes in women’s political groups.

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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has represented Florida in Congress for 14 terms, became the nation’s first Latina in the House upon her election in 1989. However, she shared with our LatinasRepresent team that when she learned of her historic feat, she couldn’t believe that she was the first, certain that it hadn’t taken so long to mark that achievement. She was more concerned with the policy impact she wanted to make, not her historical coup.

Marni Allen and LA City Councilor Nury Martinez

The motivation for many women to get involved in politics is a desire to improve their community. However, we loved hearing Los Angeles City Councilor Nury Martinez reveal that she wanted to run for public office since she was in the fourth grade! It’s great meeting role models like Nury, whose civic interest was spurred by political discussions at the dinner table, a critical civic education she shares with others.

Women across the political spectrum are focused on advancing the collective good, even when it might mean personal hardship and relying on others.  At the launch of our Shifting Gears research report last spring, New Jersey Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande described the family support network that helps her meet the obligations of her position, which often includes staying late for committee hearings and votes. Without others willing to pitch in – making lunches, running car pool, doing laundry – we would be far less likely to benefit from the voices of Assemblywomen Casagrande and hundreds like her around the country, whose policymaking is governed by their experiences as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, views long missing in the political realm.

Marni Allen and New Jersey Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande

The problems our nation faces are complex, and partisan mistrust is deep. Transforming our policymaking approach requires many new faces, actors willing to seek common ground and collaborate to reach a better end for all. We believe women must be part of the solution to establishing a more reflective, effective democracy. It’s been suggested that we’ll be colonizing the moon before we reach gender parity. Together, we can change those statistics. We salute yesterday’s trailblazers and recommit to propelling new pioneers, drawing inspiration from today’s outstanding women and collectively building on their momentum.

Join the conversation during Women’s History Month with the hashtag #MarchtoParity.