We need more women in elected office in Fresno. Period.
While women are half our society, we do not have any female representation in Fresno’s congressional, state Senate, Assembly, or Fresno County Board of Supervisorial seats. This is the worst it has been for the last two decades.
At the same time, only one of 19 potential seats for elected office in Fresno is occupied by a woman. Consequently, policy decisions are being made at every level of government in Fresno without the voice of women.
In the last year, our nation has experienced a women’s movement when it comes to sexual harassment issues. These claims have taken place at every level of government and the private business sector. The discussion has been elevated nationally through the #MeToo and @TIMESUPNOW movements. As a result, many men have resigned from public office and high-paid executives have lost their jobs. How has this impacted our local community?
As recently as April 10, The Bee reported how Aileen Rizo sued the Fresno County Office of Education and won her federal court battle regarding equal pay. Aileen was being paid less than her male co-workers even though she was doing the same work and had superior qualifications. Additionally, Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, the lone woman at Fresno City Hall, attained a First 5 Commission grant in 2015 so City Hall could add diaper changing tables and a breastfeeding room. It took the only elected woman at City Hall to think about accessibility options for families.
There are not enough women running for public office in Fresno. The Washington Post recently wrote, “Despite how far they have to go, women are well-positioned for 2018. Studies show women win elections at the same rates as men. The lack of women in office stems from a lack of women running – which is much less of an obstacle this year.” Running for public office is a difficult thing to do, and women often shy away from doing so due to family responsibilities.
Women in Fresno also lack the mentorship from other women in elected office because there are not enough women in office. Mentorship provides candidates with advice from someone who has insight and can provide important financial and emotional support, invaluable resources for a first-time candidate.
What can women in Fresno do to ensure they have equal representation at every level of government? We can bring public awareness and education to the issue of representation. Women in our community should collaborate with organizations like Emily’s List, National Organization for Women, Emerge, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality and Bridge the Gap.
If women in Fresno get organized, they can make a difference. More women should run for elected office to ensure their voice is represented in policy discussions. As studies have proven, women have a favorable statistical probability of getting elected when they run for office. It’s clear there is a need for equity in Fresno County, and we can make change by electing more women to office so they can balance the scales of representation and have a place at the table. The time is now.
Minnie Santillan was raised in the Central Valley and has worked on Assembly, Senate and congressional campaigns in California for 20 years. A recent client was Fresno Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria.