Congress needs to include more women and more physicians. Yes, we're looking at you.
Why did you want to go into medicine? Maybe you thought you could solve some of the world’s problems, or you envisioned yourself helping troubled individuals, basking in their gratitude. You might enjoy sharing information with people so they can help themselves. Perhaps you like being an expert, using your knowledge to make a difference.
Whatever your motivation, could running for public office be a different way to channel it? Serving in a state legislature or Congress, you can use your hard-won professional expertise to attack tough policy challenges, assist constituents in getting services they need, and educate the public about complex issues.
The 2012 Project, a campaign of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, aims to increase the number of women officeholders by getting accomplished women to run for legislative office. Key fields that are under-represented in government – including health care -- are targets for recruitment, and outreach to women of color and diverse backgrounds is a top priority.
The US has a poor track record of electing women
The US is 73rd in the world for women in the national congress or parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The 2010 elections saw the first significant decline in women state legislators in decades, with no progress in the U.S. House and Senate. The under-representation of women in public office looks unfair in a nation whose population is more than half female – but worse, it has a profound impact on policymaking, with women’s distinctive voices muted in the halls of government.
Increasing the number of women physicians in government
2012 presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity for women to increase their numbers in office. Districts redrawn after the 2010 census will lead to openings as long-time officeholders retire and new seats are created to reflect population shifts. We know that when women run, women win at rates comparable to men, so new women candidates from both parties will mean more women officeholders.
Baby-boomer women – those age 45 and up – are ideally positioned to run. Their children are well launched toward self-sufficiency, their careers are established, and they’ve developed strong roots in their communities.
You are invited to run
Are you thinking, “Who, me?” You’re not alone. Research shows that women, far more than men, run because they’ve been invited or encouraged. They may never have envisioned themselves as potential politicos, or they may have many questions. Yet women are less likely than men to be asked or encouraged to run.
That’s where the 2012 Project can help. First, we’re inviting you to run. If you’re intrigued by the idea, we can connect you to leadership institutes, think tanks, campaign training programs and fundraising networks in your own state. Dozens of organizations have joined us as Allies, ready to reach out to potential candidates with essential training and services.
About the author
Kathy Kleeman is the Senior Communications Officer at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.