Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who notices that only 2 of the 15 members of the Board of Aldermen are women. Both are Democrats, Joyce Petteway and Anne Phelan. Petteway and Phelan were the only women candidates for Board of Aldermen in 2009, out of a grand total of 24 candidates from three parties. The Republicans and the Independents did not have even one woman candidate.
2007 was a banner year for Waterbury women in politics, one of the best in recent years (but still not that great). The Democrats had four women out of their allotted nine candidates: Petteway, Phelan, Sandra Ramirez and Laurie Singer Russo. The Republicans still had no women candidates, while the Independents had one, Allyson Modica.
I'm not sure how to interpret this data (more research is needed). Do women in Waterbury lack interest in being on the Board of Aldermen? If so, why? Should there be some sort of tripartisan outreach program to get more women involved? Alternatively, are women being shut out of Waterbury politics by men controlling Town Committees? (hey Republicans: no women Aldermanic candidates in years? really? none?)
It would be nice to believe that we live in an enlightened era, that since it is 2011, nearly 100 years after women were given the right to vote, women would be viewed as equals by men. Unfortunately, there are still many men who marginalize women, who don't think of them as leaders, who make jokes about women being inherently inferior to men, and who are intimidated by strong women. The situation certainly has improved over the decades--thank goodness we are finally in an era when women are taken seriously as candidates for President even if they are embarrassingly clueless about U.S. history--but we still have a ways to go. The demographics of the Board of Aldermen is stark evidence of that.
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens this year. Will the Republicans, who have been struggling for years, finally realize that half the city voters are women and should have representation in city government? Will all three parties put at least four women candidates on their Aldermanic slates to better represent the city residents, or are there simply not enough qualified women who are interested? I'm going to be looking for the answer to that last question, and I'm going to be looking to get more women involved in local politics.
To the women reading this (including those not in Waterbury): if you're not involved in local politics, why is that? Please share. (anonymous comments are fine)