"Where you go mom?" She asks before I could tell her I was glad she found her missing book. Three year-olds don't always give you a chance to respond to all their news. I wait a beat to see if she really wanted to know or was ready to move on.
"Where you go mommy?"
"I went to a meeting sweetheart."
"What's your for meeting?" (Translation: what was the meeting for?)
"Well," I thought for a moment. I love her curiosity and the way I can hold her attention sometimes while she waits for answers she sincerely wants. I kneel down and give her a light squeeze.
"What's your for meeting mommy?" She asks again, still holding her found book in her chubby fingers.
"Hmm, well, it was about you." I know she will love this answer. Her eyes light up and she runs away happily, knowing that I was gone for two hours having an important meeting about her. (Three year-old narcissism is perfectly healthy.)
Of course the meeting I went to wasn't exactly about my little girl. But it was. It was about her, and her three brothers and even my handsome, babysitting husband who bravely battled 2 1/2 hours alone with all four kids so I could go to something that was important to me.
I went to an event put on by a Utah group called Real Women Run. The event was billed inviting women to attend who were interested in holding public office or supporting a campaign or serving on a public board or commission. I heard from past female lawmakers and women who have helped shape the public policy in Utah.
I came home with a lot of information and great ideas. Women are a marginalized group. We are over 1/2 the country, 1/2 the state of Utah, and yet, as elected representatives, women are vastly underrepresented.
20/100. For the 100 senators in Washington, 20 of them are women.
77/435. Congresswomen: 77. Congressmen: 358.
Women are not involved in politics and policy. We need to be. Before you stop reading and tell me that "politics isn't your thing," I want to leave you with a few numbers.
47 - Only 3 states besides ours have worse wage disparity between men and women. Women earn less than men in Utah (and across the country) and 46 other states do a better job than we do in closing this earning gap.
50 - Every other state in the union spends more money per pupil on public education. Every. Other. State. We also have one of the largest student to teacher ratio in the country, yet we spend the least on our students. Our teachers have the biggest classes and the least amount of money per classroom.
50 - Utah is also dead last in the percentage of women who start, then graduate from college with a 4 year degree.
43 - Seven states have a worse percentage of women in the state legislature.
These numbers make me very uncomfortable. As women, we are also mothers and wives and employees and business owners. These unpleasant statistics affect all of us. The type of problems that need solving require thoughtful men AND women. We need a bigger voice. To say that "politics isn't your thing" means letting someone else decide what kind of education your children will receive, how much (less) you'll get paid to do the same job as your male counterpart and how the state will spend your tax money. (Schools? Roads? Parks? Giant ski gondolas?)
Being "into politics" doesn't just have to be something that consumes your Facebook page every four years. Being "into politics" means educating yourself on what is happening in your communities and knowing who you sent to the big building on the hill to draft bills that will become your laws.
Women are leaders. We are leaders in our homes. We are leaders in our churches. We are leaders in our communities and workplaces. We need to make sure our voice is heard. The seemingly boring legislation and political jargon that happens between lawmakers directly affects you and your families.
The apathy about our public officials and discourse has to end. Get involved. Care. Vote. Run for office on the municipal, county, state or federal level, whatever your political persuasion or ideals. Get elected to your school board or city council. Also, the worst anecdote I heard tonight was this:
Candidate: So, who have you decided to vote for?
Utah Woman (more than one, according to the candidate): Well, my husband hasn't told me who we are voting for yet.
You have your own mind. Use it. We've had plenty of healthy debate and votes for different political ideas in this house. Democracy is a beautiful thing.
What we debate and engage in now, will shape the future for the next generation. And I believe we need more women at the table.
Here are a few links to put you on the train of getting involved:
RWR has another event in March for women interested in running or supporting a candidate. It's like a boot camp and training day for getting involved. Saturday, March 16th from 8:30am - 4:00pm. You can register on their website.
The Utah League of Women Voters is also holding a training and orientation for anyone interested in how state legislation works. Monday, January 28th, noon, in the capitol and later that night at the Salt Lake City Main Library. A new session is about to start, keep up on what kind of law making is going down. More information on their website here.
Look at all those resources I gave you! Don't you feel informed and full or power? Full of potential? Now go help make the world a better place for those you love. Then come home and tell them you were in a meeting about them.
Your voice matters and your voice counts. Use it.