Sunday, October 21, 2018

Reproductive Rights are Economic Rights



Think where you live doesn’t affect how you live? When it comes to women’s reproductive health and rights, where you live is critical to your access to the care and services you need to live a healthy, productive and economically successful life. Women’s health care is not separate from Health Care – it is integral to it.

No single issue is more critical to a women’s economic success – and that of her family – than her ability to control her child-bearing. Making sure parents get to decide when they want to have children is a proven strategy for family well-being. The easier it is for women to obtain birth control, the more able they are to gain education and employment, which is enormously important for the economy and society. 

A study from Child Trends commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund found that if every woman in the United States had access to the most effective birth control possible, it could save as much as $12 billion a year in health care costs.

The Affordable Care Act finally opened the door to affordable contraception by mandating that contraception was health care and had to be provided, free of charge, to women under most health care plans.

The ACA is still the law of the land, despite the best (or worse) efforts of Congress and the Trump Administration to kill, repeal, or replace it. Access to health care is a top issue on the minds of voters in 2018 because they have seen the attacks on it since the election of 2016. Those attacks have taken the form of proposed and passed legislation and executive action at both the federal and state level.

Who gets elected in 2018 will determine the fate of New York State initiatives like single payer (the New York Health Act) and the Reproductive Health Care Act, to bring NYS law into federal compliance with settled case law.

Under current state law, women seeking abortions have 24 weeks to terminate their pregnancies. Otherwise, they are required to carry their pregnancies to term. The Reproductive Health Act would allow licensed healthcare practitioners to perform abortions outside of that window if there is an absence of fetal viability or if the abortion is necessary to protect the mother’s life or health. It is important to note here that protecting the life and health of the mother in a dangerous pregnancy is and should be a medical decision between a woman and her doctor. Government has no role to play.

Where you live matters in these issues. Last year, the Guttmacher Institute published a report reviewing reproductive health policy trends across states in the U.S. in 2017. The analysis found that 19 states enacted 63 new restrictions on abortion access, while 21 states enacted 58 measures to expand reproductive health access and education.

Those states where women workers have better access to reproductive health care services are also the states that create better conditions for women to have more opportunities in the labor market, including higher-quality job opportunities, better wages, and less occupational segregation. The analysis also found that restriction on abortion access was a key indicator of the likelihood of women also facing job lock – or lack of labor mobility. This correlation suggests that women’s economic empowerment is integrated into an overall climate of women’s equality, including accessible reproductive health care that better enables women to exercise self-determination over their reproduction.

And this isn’t just an issue for state or federal officials. Recognizing that candidates at those levels usually rise from the ranks of the locally elected, you should also be asking your local candidates for their stands on health care and reproduction health.

The election of 2018 will set the stage for 2020, another presidential election and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which opened universal suffrage to women in the US. Remember, no one gave women the right to vote – it was the results of a seven decades long struggle to change hide-bound, ingrained, “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.

This November, do we elect candidates ready to move us forward in the 21st century or candidates trying to turn back the clock to the 19th? The decisions you make in the voting booth on November 6th will help determine the economic successes for everyone.



Friday, October 12, 2018

Take #MeToo to the Polls to End Violence Against Women



Timing, as they say, is everything. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. The coming mid-term election should be a moment of opportunity for women all across the country as the #MeToo movement heads to the polls.

Women candidates have responded at every level of government, running for office in local, state and national races in unprecedented numbers. At least 105 women, many first-time candidates, are running for legislative office in New York on the Democratic or Republican ticket. They recognize that they are more than 50 percent of the state’s voters, yet hold less than 25 percent of elected seats. Those numbers are too low to reach the critical threshold needed to get our issues on the table.

Many of these women candidates are facing an all too familiar set of challenges in their bid for elected office. As an August New York Times article pointed out, “the abuse already common in many women’s everyday lives can be amplified in political campaigns, especially if the candidate is also a member of a minority group.” For women candidates, the harassment is frequently sexualized, and it has come to the fore this election cycle, partly because so many women are running and partly because more of them are discussing their experiences. 

Last year, Wharton School of Business researchers observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women.” British scholar Mary Beard writes in her book, Women & Power: A Manifesto, women who seek power are viewed as “taking something to which they are not quite entitled."

We need women’s voices in the corridors of power to finally take seriously the violence that American women face every day. Need proof? More than 20,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines every day nationwide. A recent report identified the 50 policing agencies in New York State that reported the highest rates of domestic abuse victims in 2017. Those 50 communities include rural, suburban and urban places all across our state.

Violent crimes against women are often under-reported to police for exactly the reasons we saw play out on the national stage in the recent Supreme Court nomination hearings. The down-stream consequences for the privileged and the powerless victim alike of failing to report can echo just as long as for those who find the courage to report and are not believed.

The consequences of sexual assault fall overwhelmingly on the victims. About 0.7 percent of rapes and attempted rapes end with a felony conviction for the perpetrator, according to an estimate based on the best of the imperfect measures available. On the other side of the incident, at least 89 percent of victims report some level of distress, including high rates of physical injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. There has been much wringing of hands about the damage done to American men by accusations of sexual assault, but any fretting on behalf of those accused of assault should take into account research that shows that millions of victims of sexual assault have paid a serious, measurable price, physically and mentally. 

The American Psychological Association says that the majority of U.S. workplaces still aren’t taking steps to address sexual harassment the #MeToo stories brought to light. In 2016, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a comprehensive study of workplace harassment in the United States, which concluded that “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” The EEOC cited a 2003 study found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.

There are signs of positive change here in New York, but we need the state legislature to take up these issues in a comprehensive way to end violence against women in the home, in school and the workplace. It is not enough to pass a law. A law without a regulatory framework, a safe reporting mechanism, and meaningful penalties will not accomplish the change we need to make New York a safe place for all its citizenry.

Earlier this year Mayor Bill de Blasio signed in New York City a paid "safe" leave bill, expanding the city's paid sick leave law to allow workers to use their time off to address safety and get services connected with certain criminal offenses. The law covers leave for uses like filing a police report, attending a court appearance, meeting with a civil legal attorney and seeing a social worker. That is a good start, but it does not cover everyone who needs those protections who lives outside of NYC or are not city workers.

These are issues on the minds of New York voters. A Sienna poll last January found that 74 percent of voters believe workplace sexual harassment is at least a somewhat significant problem, while 36 percent say they’re aware of harassment somewhere they’ve worked. Ask your candidates for state office what they plan to do to make New York a safer place.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What Real LeadHERship Could Mean for 2019 – IF Women Get Elected in 2018



The two years since the 2016 election have been an object lesson in what happens when a country takes several giant steps backwards on the road to 21st century political leadership. It feels far more like the late 19th century than it does the first quarter of the 21st, these days.

But there is renewed hope for change in 2018 IF voters turn out in high numbers. There certainly have been plenty of reasons to get motivated about the sorry state of “leadership” in this country. We’ve seen turn backs on civility, the environment, on education, on equity, on ethics and a host of other issues.

So far, electing the same old, same old to office has gotten us the same old thing – power concentrated in the hand of the privileged few who feel entitled to do as they damn well please and woe unto anyone who says, “Wait just a minute!”

The Women’s March 1.0 in January 2017 unleashed something that has yet to be squashed – or completely realized. The momentum carried on in 2017 and Women’s March 3.0 is already in the planning stages for January 19, 2019. What could turn the tide is a host of newly elected women into local, state and federal office as the results of November 6, 2018 are tallied.

Women all across the country who previously showed little appetite for political office have stepped up to the plate this year. That sentiment was ably expressed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who last week said,

“I watched as Brett Kavanaugh acted like he was entitled to that position and angry at anyone who would question him. I watched powerful men helping a powerful man make it to an even more powerful position. … I watched that and I thought, ‘Time’s up. Time’s up. It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government and that includes a woman at the top.’”

It not just the record number of women who have been nominated for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives that is helping to turn 2018 into the Year of the Women Candidates. In the US Senate, there are six states where the choice is between two women for office. (We’ll know after Nov. 6 if 2019 is going to be the Year of the Women Office Holders.)

Here in New York State, there are five state-wide Senate races where women are running for office against a woman incumbent. And we need those choices. Women make up just about 20 percent of Congress and about 25 percent of state legislators, on average. In New York, just under 23 percent of state senators are women. Will 2018 be the last year where two women candidates for the same office are seen as a news-worthy novelty?

Even more heartening, we’re seeing young women managing election campaigns for office. About 40 percent of the campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That is a massive jump in campaign leadHERship just since the beginning of this decade. Helping a candidate to run for office is great training for running in your own right down the road.

It is hard to break the political glass ceiling, but the bottom line is, you can’t win if you don’t run. Many women candidates this year are making their first bid for elected office, rejecting the old school idea that you have to work your way up after years of paying your dues.

And women candidates bring a lot to the table. (As the old saw goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!) In a recent Pew survey, women fared better on most leadership traits than men.  

Of the nine leadership qualities listed for political leaders, men fared better than women on only one (being willing to take risks); men and women were equally favored on working well under pressure. And of the 12 traits listed for business leaders, women fared better on all but three (risk-taking, being persuasive and making profitable deals).

Thirty-one percent said women were better at being honest and ethical — a leadership trait 91 percent said was essential for political leadership jobs — while 4 percent said men were better. Forty-two percent said women were better at working out compromises, compared with 8 percent who favored men, for a quality 78 percent said was essential in politics. (The remainder said they saw no difference.)  


Another change this year:  more women candidates are looking at their motherhood as a leadership strength, not as a liability they have to overcome. This NPR story looks at what candidate moms who are combat veterans bring to the campaign:

"Instead of trying to fit into an outdated template of what a candidate looks like, this year, women are really running unapologetically as themselves," said Amanda Hunter at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, noting a shift in strategy for women candidates. "So, really using their entire life experience and that includes motherhood [and] time served in combat."

Amy McGrath, who is one of 12 women veterans have secured nominations for the U.S. House, with still more in the Senate, saw it as a smart choice to bring her own motherhood into her campaign. "Look, there might not be a whole lot of people that really can relate to being a fighter pilot. Let's just be honest," she said. "But there's a ton of people that can relate to being a mom, because I am doing it right along with them."
https://www.npr.org/2018/10/04/651950621/women-veterans-show-off-fighter-jets-in-campaign-ads-but-also-their-minivans

Want to know if electing more women really makes a difference? While it is too early to say here in America, there’s plenty of evidence from around the world that women’s leadHERship is good for civic, economic and political life. 

When Iceland elected a female president in 1980, it set off a domino effect that turned it into one of the most egalitarian countries. In this small nation, there is a near-unquestioned conviction based on decades of evidence that electing women to positions of power benefits women and families. And at a time when American women, galvanized by the election of Donald Trump, are showing unprecedented interest in entering the political arena themselves, Iceland can provide both a roadmap and a promise for what’s possible.

The only question you have to ask yourself is, “What do we have to lose by electing more women?” If you like where this state and this country are heading, by all means walk into the voting booth on November 6 and vote for the same old, same old. If you think we can do better, use your ballot to be an agent of change. Give women’s leadHERship a chance.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Vote for Better Jobs and Better Wages on November 6




Voters should always put their own economic interests first when going to the polls. Nothing is more central to your success as a citizen than your ability to make ends meet, contribute to your community life, and have the time to enrich your life beyond your need for a paycheck. For decades now, voters have been told by self-serving politicians that the Culture Wars are more important than their own economic well-being. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Women can’t afford to ignore their economic security. The majority of women work in low wage jobs. Six in ten mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners for their families. Poverty is the central fact of life for too many New Yorkers and it is time candidates for political office recognized that fact and put forth realistic and concrete ideas to address this critical truth.

A recent Census Report looked at incomes, poverty rates, and access to health insurance. Overall, New York State ranks 35 out of 50 states. And things are getting worse for the most vulnerable families. Data from 2017 indicates that financial progress for low-income Americans came to a near halt during the first year of the Trump Administration.

Nearly half of Americans have difficulty paying their bills; more than one-third have struggled with hunger or having to forego needed medical treatment. The stark truth is that a minimum-wage worker can’t afford a 2-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. In fact, a one-bedroom is affordable for minimum-wage workers in only 22 counties in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. These are all states with a higher minimum wages than the $7.25 federal wage.

The evidence of the struggles American families face is everywhere. Recently credit card defaults (the way too many people stretch too little wages over too much month) went up by 10 percent over a similar time last year. More people who borrowed to purchase an automobile have needed extra time to make their payments. And for too many in rural New York, public transportation does not exist and a personal car is the only way to get to work.

Getting to work is dependant upon affordable and available child care for most families with young children. They can’t afford to worry about the quality of child care when finding it and affording it can be nearly insurmountable problems. When it comes to high child care costs, New York is 48 out of 50 states in cost.

And those low-wage jobs that have taken the place of many of the previous jobs in the so-called “economic recovery” since the crash of 2008 are not the first step up the economic ladder. They are, in fact, dead ends that trap employees in an endless cycle of poverty.

"If you start in one of those low-wage occupations, you have a higher probability of becoming unemployed than moving up the career ladder," said Todd Gabe, a co-author of the paper, titled "Can Low-Wage Workers Get Better Jobs?" In other words, a low-wage worker was three times more likely to stop working altogether than to move to a better job in a given year.

MIT economist Peter Temin argues that escaping poverty takes almost 20 years with nearly nothing going wrong. He agrees that education is the key, but for it to be a pathway, you have to start out in grade school and proceed through high school and college without any hiccups for you or your family. Not an easy objective for anyone but the very wealthy.

And it is not just the poorest Americans who suffer and fail to thrive. According to Alissa Quart, “Middle-class life is now 30% more expensive than it was 20 years ago.” She cites the costs of housing, education, health care and child care in particular in her book, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America. She writes, “In some cases the cost of daily life over the last 20 years has doubled.”

There are good paying jobs right now, but more than half of them exist in the high-tech sector dominated by medical fields or computers. These are not fields the average person can walk into without years of training and specialized study. And the gender gap in the tech field is a barrier for too many women. Tech companies employ more than twice as many men as women.

The high paying jobs of the future will continue to be in these fields by all projections. How to ensure women are qualified for these good, high-wage jobs is an uphill battle. Even finding a female STEM role model is a challenge. According to a new study by the Geena Davis's Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University, in California, the last decade has seen little progress in the way women are portrayed in science and technology roles in film and television. That study found that 62.9 percent of STEM professionals portrayed in media are men, outnumbering women STEM characters nearly two-to-one.

And as Professor Temin suggests about the pathway out of poverty, the way to build interest in STEM fields and the requisite jobs skills is a long-term prospect. It will take an investment in time, talent, education and vision to correct these deficits.

Political leadership is a critical component.

Before you go to the polls in 2018, spend some time exploring the issues the candidates are talking about. If they are focusing on Culture War issues, force them to talk about the issues that concern your economic future. Vote for your economic security on November 6.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

#PowHerTheVote for Young Women in 2018



What are the issues that are (and should be) motivating young women to register to vote? Let us count some ways!



Elections are decided by the people who show up to vote. The current crop of politicians at every level – local, state and federal - is in power because the people who showed up to vote the last time around made those choices. If you don’t like the decisions they are making for you right now, register to vote and show up at the polls on November 6.

The political landscape in 2018 has been transformed by the #MeToo movement. Countless new-to-politics candidates have stepped forward. Many of them are openly talking about personally painful experiences and refusing to go along to get along any longer. The current debate in the US Senate over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States is a microcosm of how much hasn’t changed in the Senate. Many of the same men who refused to listen to Anita Hill a generation ago are still in power. Until the US Senate looks like the American people, that won’t change. Your vote this November is a step in the right direction.

Among the new candidates who have emerged in 2018 are people who understand they have something to lose if they forego political power. We’ve seen a surge by the powerless - women, minorities and LGBTQ candidates - running for political office in 2018. Will they all win? No, but if you don’t run, you can’t win. And if you don’t vote, you can’t ensure these people with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm for governing get a chance to open doors for people long-denied representation.

An enduring issue for women of all ages is reproductive health care. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which is under attack at the federal level in Congress, women finally have a level playing field when it came to health care in terms of access, doing away with gender-based pricing, and access to contraception. All that equity and progress is at risk by the current Administration and Congress. Here in New York State we have some additional protections, but the ground is still boggy.

Young women in particular disapprove of recent Trump Administration rollbacks to contraception coverage. The best way to make that disapproval known is in the voting booth come November.

Where you live very much determines how you live and what access to care you receive. Worth noting is Wall Street Journal-NBC polling on abortion access. Voters are now more likely to vote for a political candidate who is pro-abortion rights than for one who opposes them. Especially dramatic change was recorded by the poll among independent voters, 76% of who said they opposed reversing the ruling, up from 64% who were opposed to its reversal in 2013.

In particular this year, who gets elected to the New York State Senate will determine if New York modernizes its pre-Roe V. Wade law to conform to current federal statue, putting it under Health law, where it properly belongs. Passage of the Reproductive Health Act has been held up in the state Senate for years now.

Mother Nature doesn’t get a vote – but you do, if the environment and climate change are important to you. One in every 10 voters cares about these issues and 80% of millennial voters (who will be the largest block of voters IF they exercise their political power at the polls) believe that climate change is no longer a threat to our future but is a present danger. They do not deny the evidence-based reality of their own eyes. How many of our current politicians can say the same?

Somewhere between 10 and 15 million environmental voters decide to stay home every election. The results of those choices have haunted us for the last two years, as decisions continue to be made to roll back environmental protections that have been in place since the 1970s. If you like dirty air, polluted water, and shrinking bio-diversity, you can choose to stay home in 2018. Or you can show up to vote and speak for all living creatures that don’t have a voice.

Many young people have been motivated to register to vote because of the gun violence they see in their public schools and colleges. Politicians have done little to challenge the power of the gun lobby to effect common-sense, reasonable gun laws and to look at gun violence as the public health crises it is. You can make a difference at the polls if you care about this issue by electing leaders who prioritize public safety and are willing to stand up to the NRA.

Rejecting party politics doesn’t mean you’re not political. There isn’t much about either major political party in the country that attracts young voters (or many of the rest of us either, anymore). In fact blank or unaffiliated voters in New York continue to gain ground in enrollment. The only thing being an unaffiliated voter means is you can’t vote in a NYS primary, which isn’t much of loss, given the byzantine voting rules still in place in this state.

If you care about modernizing and reforming New York’s electoral rules, voting in 2018 is important. Changes in who we send to Albany will give the forces of electoral reform additional voices in 2019. We won’t get early voting, expanded voting days, same-day registration, or the other election reforms that are driving up voter participation in other states if we send the same politicians back to Albany who have blocked those reforms in the past.

Elections are decided by the people who show up and vote. When you don’t show up, someone else is making critical decisions for you. Going along for the ride means you are often being taken for one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Child Care Remains a Crisis for Rural New Yorkers



In a classic Catch-22, New York State ranks #10 with an overall score of 51.95 in the 2018 Best and Worst States for Working Moms survey. It is No. 1 with Best Day Care System but No. 48 with Highest Cost Day Care. But that survey doesn’t really capture the child care dilemma rural families find themselves in, day in and day out. Women make up almost half of the US workforce, but find themselves often behind the 8-ball when trying to find someone to care for their children.

Rural areas, which make a very large percentage by geography of the state, are often child care desserts, without even one registered or licensed day care in some townships. And as for affordability, too often in New York it is cheaper to send your child to college than it is to a high quality day care.

According to a report from Child Care Aware of America, the national average cost for child care is nearly $8,700 a year. Single parents pay nearly 36 percent of their income for child care expenses for one child, while married couples pay 10 percent. In New York State, that cost is $14,144 a year!

This conundrum is very well understood by American voters, who strongly support policies that improve access to affordable, high-quality child care and want – and expect – their leaders at both the federal and state level to get the need and to act.

On the one hand parents need to work, but when child care is not available, is too expensive or does not meet their needs (split shifts; after-hours needs, etc.), it can drive them further into poverty. And poverty is something rural New Yorkers are far too familiar with.

Proposed changes to the social safety net that are working through Congress right now will make an impossible situation worse. If low-income people with children have to meet strict work requirements to qualify for assistance, the lack of child care sets them up for failure. And it sets their children up for failure, as well.

In my large, rural county, one in four children lives in poverty. St. Lawrence County is the seventh most impoverished county in New York with more than 27 percent of kids living below the federally established poverty level, according to the state Department of Health. The most recent data available shows 19,107 or about 19.2 percent of St. Lawrence County’s trackable residents living below the poverty line. That’s significantly higher than the state and federal poverty rates, at around 16 percent.

Now, unless you subscribe the dictum of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Are there no prisons? No workhouses?” we can not blame these children for the situation they find themselves in. Additionally, St. Lawrence County ranks No. 4 of New York’s 62 counties where residents struggle with hunger, and 40% of all Americans struggle to pay for at least one basic need like food or rent.

And if you are a child care worker, you are much more likely to be at risk for poverty yourself:
Nationwide, 53 percent of child care workers were on at least one public assistance program between 2014 and 2016, the Early Workforce Index report states. In 2017, the median wage for U.S. child care workers was $10.72 per hour or $22.290 per year. Child care workers in the report include adults who work with infants and toddlers in child care centers and some home-based settings.

How serious is the child care crises in America? Many folks are having fewer kids because of costs. "Child care is too expensive" was the top reason (64 percent), with "worried about the economy" at No. 3 (49 percent) and "can't afford more children" (44 percent) coming in fourth, showing that economic insecurities and financial concerns are causing many young Americans to skip or delay having kids.

If, as the Center for American Progress has surveyed, voters want child care as a front and center issue up for discussion - and action - by political leaders this year, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure we put child care on the radar screens of candidates running for state and federal officials this November. You can #PowHerTheVote by asking this question and demanding good answers to it!






Sunday, October 29, 2017

We’ve Still Got a Long Way to Go, Baby, When it Comes to Economic Justice for Women



For all the positive things we see happening in New York State for women economically, and there has been a lot of progress, we are still a long way from where we need to be.

On the plus side, for example, on Halloween this year, a new law takes effect in New York City prohibiting employers from inquiring about a candidate’s salary history during the hiring process. The law is designed to delink lifelong pay inequalities for women by uncoupling them from their salary histories. From October 31 on, any such inquires are unlawful and discriminatory.

PowHerNY and our many allies worked hard during the 2017 legislative session to get a similar salary history bill passed in New York State legislature. Hopefully we’ve laid the ground work for passage in 2018.

On January 1, New York will institute most one of the most progressive paid family leave policies in the nation. Phased in over several years, the new law will apply to newborns, adopted or foster children, as well as ill family members, including children, in-laws and domestic partners. Those families with a member called to active military service also qualify. And since the payment of benefits comes out of payroll deductions, employers do not bear the burden to cover costs.

But – and there is always a but - New York City sits atop a list of 10 worst megacities for women in terms of economic opportunity, according to a new survey ranking the world’s metropolises for their sexism. The Thomson Reuters Foundation looked at 19 of the world’s biggest megacities and ranked them based on how safe they are for women, as well as the level of access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities.

Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to experts on women’s issues in each of the cities and rated the cities based on their scores in four categories:
·       Sexual violence (“Women can live in this city without facing the risk of sexual violence including rape or sexual attacks or harassment.”)
·       Access to healthcare (“Women have good access to healthcare including control over reproductive health and maternal mortality.”)
·       Cultural practices (“Women are well protected from potentially harmful cultural practices including female genital mutilation, child, early or forced marriage, female infanticide.”)
·       Economic opportunities (“Women have access to economic resources such as education, ownership of land or other forms of property, and financial services such as bank accounts.“)

This past weekend the Women’s Convention was held in Detroit, a convening of nearly 4,000 people, mostly women, as a follow up to the wildly successful Women’s March held in Washington, DC and many other locations following the Trump Inauguration in January. The issues under discussion in Detroit included the same ones women rallied over last January:

Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, threats to the environment, mass incarceration, reproductive rights, workplace rules, the accessibility of child care, treatment of immigrants, protections for transgender people, and sexual harassment and assault.

The answer to the question, Why these issues are still unmet?, even in relatively progressive places like New York City and New York State, is simple:  It is the lack of women at the table in the state legislature and the halls of Congress.

Women make up just over half the population and are the majority of voters, yet women – especially young women with the most to gain or lose - are not exercising their full electoral power, either at the polls as voters or as candidates.

Election Day 2017 is just around the corner, yet we know these off, off year elections attract the fewest voters, on average. However, it is through local elections that voters have the greatest power to effect change. We’ve seen over and over again that when progress is stalled in Washington and the state capital, it is through leadership at the municipal level that real change can begin. Paid Family Leave was a New York City innovation before it passed in Albany.

Across the country, the majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the political state of the nation:

Seven in 10 Americans say the nation’s political divisions are at least as big as during the Vietnam War, according to a new poll, which also finds nearly 6 in 10 saying Donald Trump’s presidency is making the U.S. political system more dysfunctional.
But dissatisfaction extends well beyond the executive branch: Even more Americans, 8 in 10, say Congress is dysfunctional, and there is limited trust in other institutions, including the media.
While the poll finds similar levels of distrust in the federal government as before Trump took office, it also finds that pride in U.S. democracy is eroding. The share of Americans who are not proud of the way the country’s democracy is working has doubled since three years ago — from 18 percent to 36 percent in the new survey conducted among a nationwide sample of more than 1,600 adults by The Post and U-Md.’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship.
Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say America’s politics have reached a dangerous low point, though more Democrats (81 percent) than Republicans (56 percent) hold that view.

This has been deliberately cultivated by cynical politicians and organizations who want to foster helplessness, fear and apathy in our citizens. Because apathetic, depressed citizens won’t do the one thing that can change the direction of the country: Run for office and vote for candidates who offer a new vision for the country.

There is a power vacuum in this country. Robert Reich, who served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993-97, has pointed out that the old Democratic and Republican parties are exploding.

"When you take a closer look, America actually has 6 political parties right now. Whoever can put together elements of a governing coalition among these groups will win future elections." Watch his video essay on this question.

But in order to take advantage of these dynamic shifts in political power, we have to be willing to step up to claim the opportunity. The good news: there is evidence this is starting to happen.

More than 15,000 women across the country have contacted Emily’s List in 2017 to express interest in running for office—a new record for the organization. They’ve watched as senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are interrupted and silenced by their male colleagues, and lamented that at an all-male cohort of senators retreated behind closed doors to draft a Senate health-care bill that would have imperiled millions of women’s health, from maternity care to access to birth control.

According to a She Should Run spokesperson, in a normal month the organization sees “at best, and with significant effort, anywhere between a few dozen to a few hundred women” sign up. But in the three months since the election, co-founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro said 8,100 women have indicated their interest in running foroffice by registering for She Should Run’s online incubator program, which teaches them how.

Female donors are skyrocketing and more women are considering runs. The number of female donors to federal candidates and committees has skyrocketed by roughly 284 percent so far in the 2017-18 election cycle compared with this time in the 2015-16 cycle, according to research from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The number of women donating to a federal campaign has increased by a staggering 670 percent when compared with the early months of the 2011-12 cycle.

Having a critical mass of women decision-makers, rather than a token presence, will allow new ideas and new voices to be heard with new perspectives and solutions to old problems. This idea is taking hold. In Detroit at the Women’s Convention:

In small rooms, speakers led detailed training sessions for candidates at all levels: how to get the vote out, how to give a campaign speech, how to register voters, how to run for office.
“The goal here is for people to go back to their local communities and prepare for 2018 and to build power, register voters, engage more people, organize on a very hyper level,” said Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March and of this convention, which leaders here view as the first of its kind since women met in Houston in 1977. “We’re excited to see what happens in 2018.”

Women – and society – have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember: