Women running for state and local politics speak out about balancing the fine line between home and work.
If 2010 was the year of the women, then 2022 is the year of women’s issues.
The Dobbs decision this past June, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to an abortion and therefore made Roe v. Wade obsolete after 50 years, has ricocheted women’s productive rights to the forefront of politics and caused a surge in new voter registration.
Along those lines, a Zoom event on Sept. 21 held by the Baltimore-area based Executive Alliance featured four women running for state and local office: Maryland House Delegate Brooke Lierman, City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, former Assistant Attorney General Michelle Siri and Kelly Schulz, who is running for governor. They were asked to speak about the challenges associated with wanting to make change on the ground.
The panelists, who represented both political parties, agreed that women are more scrutinized about their qualifications and their “optics” at events, including what they wear and how they do their hair, than their male counterparts. They also pointed to the complications of raising money, a lack of time when they also work outside the home and the tendency for women to be more risk-averse (and at the same time, natural advocates) as traditional barriers to having more women in politics.
There can also be a self-confidence issue, acknowledged Lierman, who represents District 46 in the House of Delegates and is running for state comptroller. And it doesn’t help matters when women who are mothers often get grilled about how they manage to balance running for a political office with balancing their home life — a question rarely directed at men.
Siri noted that her husband’s support has been crucial to her run; he has taken to doing the cooking and other necessities (despite all those “Mr. Mom” quips), which “takes a load off.” She also said that once they reconfigured household duties, it left her more time to campaign. After all, she said, “many women can’t afford to quit their jobs to run for office.”
“It takes work, configuring,” acknowledged Ramos, who represents Baltimore City’s 14th District. But the message, she emphasized, should be that “even though this is hard, we can do it.”
In other words, “the struggle is in the juggle.”
‘Gender piece out of the equation’
Schulz noted that her children were grown before she started stumping for office and that the different “seasons of women’s lives” allow for more freedom at certain times. She also pointed out that “wouldn’t it be great if voters chose politicians based on their qualifications and their knowledge of policy and issues? That would take the gender piece out of the equation.”
Maryland ranks fifth in the country for the proportion of women lawmakers, who comprise 43.6% of the state legislature.
Executive Alliance is made up of women in professions across the career spectrum who get together regularly for networking and support. It educates through programs, workshops and events that sustain leadership development and address the opportunities, challenges and issues women face in all sorts of professional realms.
Political consultant Sarah Mogol of Pikesville, Md., got involved with the group four years ago, and this summer she became a board member.
“What’s great about this group is its relation to Jewish tradition and values,” she said. “It has a tikkun olam [social justice] aspect to it; participating in organizations and being of service to others are Jewish values.”
Plus, “there’s a tremendous amount of good that can be done.”
She said it harkens all they way back to Miriam, the sister of Moses, and how Jewish women have always been organizers — the backbone of society.
That seemed apparent to the group of onlookers. For instance, one the panelists on the Zoom call quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stated that “women belong in all places where decisions are being made … it shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”