Friday, July 01, 2011

Where Are the Women?

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)


Bryan P. Baker said...

I know that in the past, women were usualy placed on the slate for Board of Education. In fact, at the moment there are more women on the Board of Education (3) then on the Board of Aldermen (2).

This may be a result of more women wanting to be on the Board of Education, but it is open for discussion.

Waterbury Girl said...

The presence of more women on the Board of Education could be attributed to the same potential chauvinism that hypothetically is keeping the Board of Aldermen dominated by men, the concept that women are best suited for matters concerning children, not for the world at large. There is a long-standing belief that a woman's sphere of influence should remain in the home and in grammar schools. I don't know that this is an actual reason for more women being on the Board of Ed, but I think it definitely needs to be considered.

Anonymous said...

It is just like other things where we say that we should go out and recruit because there aren't enough.

Women just like others should know that it is up to us to decide if we want to run for office or a board. No one should have to come out to give us a personal invitation.

If we saw many women trying to run for office or a board and not getting a chance to be on the slate, then I would say that the "good old boy" network is pushing them out, but women need to try for themselves.

There are times then I think we are so busy multitasking and juggling so many things, that we just don't have the time.

There are several women I would love to see on the BoA, but they need to get out there and make themselves known.

Lets face it, despite our myriad of problems in Waterbury!, it is still a wonderful city because of many men and women who do a variety of things to enhance our city.

If some of them were in power, it would be even better.

If some knew how to get jobs into this city, then they would be a shoe-in for any position they wanted.

In the meantime, lets just keep working from where we are and celebrate our city and if any women wish to run for office or BoA, then, GO FOR IT!

Bryan P. Baker said...

"If we saw many women trying to run for office or a board and not getting a chance to be on the slate..."

There is the issue with trying to pin down why the numbers are what they are. We rarely know how many people put there names forward for the seats on the BOE or BOA. Therefore, we don't know if women are being turned away or if they are not stepping forward. Until we know that, unfortunately, it's a purely hypothetical discussion.