ARE THERE WOMEN ISSUES or only EVERYDAY ISSUES?
LtoR Ericka Harold, Leslie Rutledge, Karen Floyd, Christine Ries, Rosemary Barbour, Lisa Roper, and Jackie Gingrich-Cushman
Bill and I travelled to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Southeastern Regional Summer Conference of the National Federation of Republican Women July 19 – 20 at the invitation of Lisa Roper, who is the 4th Vice President of NFRW. The southeastern region consists of Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Lisa worked with the Georgia Federation of Republican Women to accomplish this tremendously successful conference. Lisa is also a member of the Canyon Lake Republican Women’s Club in Comal County. She will be highlighted in a following article.
There were many exciting and inspiring speakers at the conference as were several panel discussions. One of the most interesting panel discussions, and one that we need to take heed of, was the ‘Women’s Leadership Issues Panel.’ It was comprised of women who managed their own businesses or were Republican candidates. What an excellent opportunity to listen to these women express their genuine thoughts about women’s issues. It was a diverse conversation providing insight into their own lives and giving food for thought about the roles we play in our communities.
The discussion went to the false premise that the Republican Party is waging War on Women and how shocking it was to see Obama win a second term with an overwhelming vote from American women. Obama won the women’s vote with ease. As women we can play an important role in winning the minds and hearts of these women before the next election. It won’t be enough just to ‘tell’ them about Republicans, we need to welcome them into our circle of friends and into our clubs.
Karen Floyd is the publisher of the Palladian View, a magazine dedicated to women’s issues and promoting Republican women to elected office. As the moderator of the leadership panel, Karen described their role when she said, “The purpose of the panel was to talk about the dynamics and look at women in leadership and we have taken a look in business and politics.” This description is of course the short version. It was also a discussion on how the party can help and how as women we can play a critical part in encouraging and engaging other women.
This discussion is just the beginning, as conservative women, we must carry our personal message to our relatives, friends and neighbors. The key word is to inspire others to commit to our cause. We do this by telling our real story. By spotlighting women and showing what conservative women can accomplish, we send out positive vibes to our communities and cities. Women view life differently than men, and that is a fact not to be questioned. Men want a career for the most part for power and economic success. Women also want a career but family is probably the priority. The end results are the same. Both men and women want to succeed and both want to provide the best for their families.
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP ISSUES PANEL
LtoR Erika Harold, former Miss America, Jackie Gingrich-Cushman, Rosemary Barbour, Christine Ries, Professor Georgia Tech, Leslie Rutledge, Karen Floyd Moderator
The following are excerpts from the panel discussion of five successful women in their own realm. As women we each have to decide where we fit and what path our passion takes us.
Leslie Rutledge: Candidate for Arkansas Attorney General
Christine Ries: Professor of Economics, Georgia Tech
Rosemary Barbour: Owner of Alcatec LLC
Jackie Gingrich Cushman: Speaker, Columnist, Socialpreneur
Erika Harold: Former Miss America, Lawyer, Congressional Candidate, Illinois
Karen: What does the electorate define as women issues? We want to show that there are diverse perspectives.
Leslie: I don’t think there are women’s issues. Women are not single-issue voters. We care about jobs, we care about opportunity, we care about education and we care about freedom. I don’t think that there is any one issue women care about, women want good opportunities and to raise their family. They want all the same things that the opposite sex does.
Rosemary Barbour - Christine Ries – Leslie Rutledge
Christine: I think it is a difficult question because we want to think about ourselves as Americans or Georgians. Economy is my passion. The real women’s issue is that our economy is being cut to death by a thousand cuts. That’s the real women’s issue that we have that we share with men. At a Georgia Tech University panel discussion I had a question which left me breathless: You are obviously a mother and a grandmother, so how can you possibly support and be a member of a party that hates women and is trying to deflate women and is so anti-women. I don’t remember my answer. What I should have said to her was, “If you want to pay for their (young women) birth control and their pap smears for the rest of their lives and the rest of your lives then a democrat is who you want to vote for.” Then two weeks later when the returns came in and we lost those young women, I realized that experience of hearing that question that I thought was so ‘out in left field’ was main stream. We can not let those young women continue to vote and grow up believing that their lives are about becoming more and more dependent on government.
Karen: How can our party better message to young women. As we have lost the last election dramatically.
Rosemary: Believe in yourself. Young people need to believe in themselves and believe in their capabilities and believe in this wonderful country of ours and they will succeed. Those are the key words, Believe in yourself!
Karen: How do we reclaim the young women vote?
Jackie: It is shocking how many people firmly believe that the Republican Party really hates women. You and I know that this is not true. This supposed ‘War on Women’ is nonsense. There is no war on women, but what there really is are everyday issues for everybody. I think we have to back up. It is much deeper than messaging. I think we have to understand why they believe that. What do they think are the key issues that they are concerned about and how do we communicate in a way they understand? In the end we have to make sure we are a welcoming club. They have to feel happy and feel welcomed and that they can contribute.
Unfortunately, because the media has such a great effect and because of what they see on TV and the internet, women believe it to be true even though it is not. So many young women believe that the Republican Party hates women and has a war on women when it does not. So we have to go the extra mile and be incredibly welcoming and incredibly open. And really talk about their issues. That is why my sister and I are opening ‘American Women Matters Research Center.’ We will do in-depth qualitative and quantitative research. We will be doing research on how to best connect on women’s issues. We have got to figure this out because it is no longer an option. It can no longer be just messaging. It has got to be a real communication, a real welcoming. It is important to the future of our country.
Karen: What do you think is the best way, effective way for the party to encourage and support candidates to present our solutions and perspectives on all issues?
Erika: I think it is important that the party elevates people who are very successful communicators. I think at conventions we have to use them as great opportunities to tell the story of what it means to be a Republican. We have to do this not by just clichés and sound bites. As soon as people can anticipate as to what you are going to say you have lost them. But when you speak from your own life and story of why you became a Republican, all of a sudden you move beyond the talking points you move beyond the messaging. Those are the stories we have to tell as Republicans. I think it is important that the party backs people who are capable of doing that. We have to spotlight and showcase those that can communicate their story in a positive way.
Leslie: We have to encourage women to run for office. Sitting back and waiting is no longer an option. We have to realize that we do have women in leadership positions. We have five women governors and four of them are Republican and two are minorities. We have not failed completely. We have to reach out to all women, middle age, seniors and young women, and ask them to step up.
Karen: Women make up 46% of the workforce but comprise only 3% of Fortune 500 chief executive positions. Why?
Erika Harold and Jackie Gingrich-Cushman
Jackie: A woman wants more flexibility. There is a distinction between an old-fashioned corporation where men worked very long hours for a very long time and eventually they moved up the hierarchy. Now we have an entrepreneurial system that has a totally different dynamic. So we have to transition from this old established corporation where you worked there forever to earn your stripes to a more entrepreneurial system where there is more flexibility and move up in the ranks. It is not just being successful at work but being successful at home. It may be a mixture of that. In giving to their community, both men and women said yes. Men were more likely to run for office to give to their community and women were more likely to work for a non-profit. One way is to encourage women to participate from a very young age. Then you learn how to win and how to lose and how to pick yourself up.
A study went out to both men and women with the same level of experience “Are you qualified to run for office”? A man will say yes. If they don’t think they can win, men will run anyway. It does not matter to them because they are determined to run for office regardless. They are more likely to run, while a woman will run for office only if they know they have a great shot before they actually step into the ring. It is important to not only encourage women to be in business, but to run for office.
Karen: The ambition gap between men and women leads to an achievement gap. Women tend to be less likely to think big and take risks as compared to their male counterparts. Women attribute their success to the help of others while men can attribute theirs to skills. Why?
Erika: It depends on how we nurture young women. We make it seen that ambition is a dirty word. So when a young women says she want to aspire to do something often times she is asked why. Is it because she wants to be in the spotlight? Why doesn’t she work behind the scenes and help someone else achieve it? I don’t think we want to raise a generation of narcissists. Narcissism is not synonymous with ambition. But I think it is OK to be able to envision yourself as a leader. On my Miss America tour it was important for me to stress to young women that they were leaders. I asked them not to ask me how to put on lip gloss but to ask me how to set a goal even if you think it is outside of your reach.
Sometimes I think that we feel that girls can’t deal with disappointment and rejection. Sometimes the things that you do not achieve in life are the things that are most formidable lessons for you. We need to encourage young women. Don’t be afraid of ambition but also don’t be afraid of not succeeding. It is not the same thing as failure. Giving girls this message at an early age is important. If you don’t take risks and you don’t step up to the plate you most certainly are not going to achieve.
Karen: Success and likability are negativity correlated for women. As a woman becomes more successful she becomes apparently less likeable. As a result, women weigh the benefits of success against the potential personal cost and often shy away from perusing greater opportunity responsibility. What can the Republican Party do to help with this?
Leslie: It is OK to spotlight women as mothers, aunts, but there are other parts of women. Yes it is OK to be a strong, successful woman and to have all these accolades; whether you are in the work room or in the kitchen, it does not matter. The party just needs to spotlight women more because we are allowing ourselves to be defined. In politics if you don’t control the message you lose. We need to really reach out and get them engaged. We need to say this is a strong, successful woman and she happens to be an attractive woman. Leslie’s personal comment was that when she is introduced she adds “it turns out that I am qualified too.” It’s OK and we have all these other attributes as well.
Karen: Women are likely to take jobs in marketing HR and in other areas where the bottom line PnL impact is harder to measure. In politics you either win or you don’t. Is there a correlation between why we gravitate to these soft elements or have fewer women drawn to politics because of the hardline win or loss?
Erika: You want to protect yourself from failure. Encouraging people that it is OK to take a risk and it is OK to not succeed is imperative. I will either win or lose. Success is very primary this way. A sister reminded me that, if you run a good race then you win. Encourage people to take risks and define success differently. Focus on what you have learned and what you have contributed along the way.
Christine: Find your passion! Follow your dream and just stick with it.
Karen: As a woman, I want you to give me one sentence as to how to ‘pay it forward’ for this next generation of women without benefit to you.
Rosemary: Set an example and guide our children.
Jackie: Infrastructure and data because the media is so persistent so we have to write real stories about real people.
Erika: Identify young people who have leadership qualities and mentor them. Also by running for office by showing what you promote.
Leslie: Be a servant leader and do the right thing.
Christine: Ask questions.
After the panel discussion, I approached Jackie and told her that I had been on Gingrich’s National Hispanic Leadership Team and had heard her several times during the conference calls. My reason for chatting with her was to remind her that there are millions of single women throughout America who learn how to support a family, some after a divorce. Becoming head of a household changes a woman’s perspective to accommodate the family’s financial needs, that becoming a millionaire or seeking power is not as important as keeping the family together. Education is usually a main concern for all single mothers, and setting this goal is no easy task. Statistics for single mothers continue to mount. This segment of women should be made part of the conversation if we truly want to engage all women. Single mothers cut through all races and economic status.
I believe that there are many answers to the question of women’s issues. What are your questions, what are your answers? What is YOUR passion? Where do you feel most comfortable? Where do you fit in?