The Constraints of Place on Leadership
California State Senator Diane Watson and Utah Representative Beverly Evans live in very different political worlds. There are the obvious contrasts of size and demographics between their home states and their districts: SenatorWatson represents some 750,000 residents of a Los Angeles district that is 40 percent white and 60 percent minority with growing Asian and Hispanic populations. Representative Evans represents two rural counties and some 28,000 residents in racially homogeneous (93 percent white) Utah.
Their legislatures also differ. California dwarfs other states in terms of the number of staff, the year-round legislative session, legislator compensation ($75,600 a year), and the funds required to wage a successful electoral campaign. Utah lawmakers, by contrast, meet forty-five calendar days every year, earn $100 per diem salary, and have no personal staff or offices. 1 As a result, Senator Watson finds she has much more in common with her California male colleagues than with many other women legislators: "Where you are has great meaning; geography is destiny."2
Both chairs, however, have had common experiences related to being one of the few women in their legislatures. Both have encountered doubts about their abilities and have developed strategies to manage the visibility that comes from being different. In 1986, many people laughed when Evans first ran in a race against eight men, but her hard work and personal reputation in the rural areas have discouraged potential rivals in subsequent elections. She has won over the skeptics. Even the president of her local stake (a Mormon geographic jurisdiction comprising several smaller church units) has come around: He confided once to Evans's husband that he never imagined he would vote for a woman candidate. 3 Evans notes: