Last night, I spoke to the Women’s Bar Association about why women should run for office. It reminded me that most women need to hear this. So, I wanted to bring my message to the BlogHer community.
To the women reading this post, you should run for office. Despite the increased number of women in Congress over the last few years, we need more. Of course, women face challenges when we run for office – and still face challenges just doing our jobs in the “boys club.”
You’ll undoubtedly have moments where you think that there are not enough hours in the day for you to succeed in your career, for you to start a family and continue your career, or to step away from your job to try to run for office and better your community.
I am here to tell you that you can.
Last year, I gave birth to my son Joaquín – who is now nine-months old. It put me in an exclusive group; I became only the 8th Member of Congress to give birth while serving in office. The first woman to give birth while in office was Yvonne Braithwaite Burke in 1973. From 1973-1996, there were no women in Congress who gave birth! It’s obvious that having a child while being responsible to thousands of constituents is a daunting task. But it’s not impossible.
Not only was I able to continue serving the interests of my constituents during my pregnancy, I even made it down to the House floor – maternity gear and all – to cast votes the night before I gave birth. I’m not going to tell you it was easy. I have a great staff and a wonderful family who made it easier. If anything, this opportunity showed me how much women can accomplish.
Last fall, Stanford and the University of Chicago conducted a study comparing female lawmakers to their male counterparts. The study focused on three specific measurements of the effectiveness of each member of Congress: 1) the number of pieces of legislation each member introduced, 2) the number of Members of Congress who cosponsored each piece of legislation, and 3) the amount of discretionary spending each member was able to direct to his or her district.
The conclusion of the study was clear: women are more effective legislators than men. Quantitatively, women introduce more legislation and procure more resources for their districts. Qualitatively, the legislation women introduce receives greater support from their colleagues.
The results reaffirm a truth I’ve seen again and again in my life and my time in Congress: women get things done and don’t take no for an answer. That’s not to diminish the impact of my male colleagues, but there are times when women show greater fortitude and a stronger commitment than our male counterparts. We’ve had to work harder to get where we are, which means we keep digging and trying new methods until we get the results we want.
Women often view issues with a 360 degrees lens - by examining parts of the debate the way it relates to the whole. Moms, aunts, sisters, or mothers in Congress are good for our government and good for our nation. It leads to better policies, better laws, and better governance. It’s why our Nation’s Capitol now has more bathrooms for women and a breast-feeding room.
In your own day-to-day lives you will bring out your passion for people and the world around you. Don’t just sit on sidelines. Don’t just take the world as you find it. Use your voice to stand up to injustice. Empower the powerless.
You can write the laws rather than react to them. You can ensure the next generation of women legislators have an easier road and more role models than your generation does, and than my generation had.
I look forward to hearing more voices of women in the debates that will help shape the world in which my son grows up.
Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez represents the 39th Congressional District of California.
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