Magazine article Working Mother

When We Run, We Win

Magazine article Working Mother

When We Run, We Win

Article excerpt

Winning elected office isn't easy under the best of circumstances. It requires a rare combination of charisma, connections and determination. Holding elected office isn't much easier. Many city council and state legislative positions are part-time, so you have to have a job with flexibility and the wherewithal to serve.

For working mothers, that's a high bar to entry. Even if they're confident they can manage the demands of civic life, a 2017 study by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation confirmed it's harder for moms to reassure voters that they can balance work and family than it is for dads.

And those are just the fi rst few obstacles for working moms who weren't born in the United States.

"Many immigrants come to this country and work on economic and financial stability, so engaging in politics is a second step, if a step at all," says Sayu Bhojwani, the founder and president of the New American Leaders Project, a nonpartisan organization that prepares first- and second-generation Americans for political office.

"Some communities fear government, authority and politics. And even when young immigrants grow up where politics is a dinnertime conversation, it might not always be American politics, and they're not part of the local Democratic or Republican club." The immigrant of Indian descent from Belize adds: "We don't know how it works. Just like my parents couldn't advise me on the college application process, they couldn't advise me on the civic engagement process."

Yet those hurdles are being cleared. The recently elected 115th Congress is the most racially diverse in history. A record 21 women are serving in the U.S. Senate. And lately, groups like Bhojwani's are getting unprecedented levels of interest.

"We've seen a 30 percent growth in applications since the presidential election," she confirms. Not only that, but she says applicants are now twice as likely to say affirmatively, "I want to run, and this is the seat I'm looking at."

That's huge: Research shows that women are elected and re-elected at the same rate as men-and women of color are elected at an especially high rate. A Political Parity study of female candidates in the 2012 U.S. House race found that, once through the primaries, black women won their general elections at a rate of 87 percent, Hispanic women at 61.5 percent and Asian-American women at 86 percent.

For women, and specifically women of color, it's mostly a matter of convincing themselves they're capable. And you know you are.

Take it from these four impressive women, who checked every box that could have impeded their rise: working mom, woman of color, immigrant. In last year's contentious election season, when the prevailing political winds should have worked against them, they won. Their message for their fellow working moms of color, who might be itching to run for office but are weighed down by doubt: "Just do it."

Isela Blanc

Arizona House of Representatives, District 26

Mom to Andy, 21, and Alexis, 18

Even at 5 feet tall, soft-spoken Blanc still makes a big impact-one of her colleagues in the House affectionately calls her "firecracker." That fighting spirit is absolutely necessary. In February, a fellow House member referred to her as a "young lady." (He was taken to task by another female legislator.) In March, a male colleague threatened to call security and have her thrown out when she didn't immediately kowtow to his request. (He later apologized on the House floor.) Blanc says she's not naturally a risk-taker, but she learned to flex her political muscles during school PTA meetings. Her family came from Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was 6V2, and she lived as an undocumented immigrant for nine years. Now, she's proud to fight for immigrant families in her state.

Why allies are important "I felt disillusioned after attending my first PTA meeting. Afterward, an older, white mom invited me for coffee and said: 'Honey, don't let those women intimidate you. …

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